Action Alert: Submit Comments on USDA’s Proposed Rule for Animal Disease Traceability

Having dropped the plans for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), USDA is back again for Round Two. The agency has proposed a rule that would require livestock producers, related businesses, and state livestock agencies to incur significant expense tracking animals that cross state lines.

Though less sweeping than the NAIS, the proposed animal traceability rule is still burdensome and a solution in search of a problem. The USDA has again failed to identify the specific problem or disease of concern, and the real focus of the program is helping the export market. While the program will benefit a handful of large corporations, the costs and burdens will fall on producers, vets, sale barns and weigh stations, and the states. These new regulations will harm rural businesses while wasting taxpayer dollars that could be better spent on the real problems we face in controlling animal disease, food security, and food safety.

At a time when farmers and ranchers are facing significant economic problems, the last thing we need is additional burdensome rules hindering the economic viability of the small businesses of the nation.

 

 

TAKE ACTION:

 

You can submit comments either online or by mail.

ONLINE: http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=APHIS-2009-0091-0001

The government’s online system can be difficult to navigate and there is a time limit. We encourage you to write your comments and save them in a document on your computer, then copy and paste them into the online comment form. Also, although only some of the information fields are marked as being “required,” some people have experienced problems when they left fields blank. So for the fields that are not required, you may wish to put “NA” (not applicable) in them to avoid potential problems.

BY MAIL: Docket No.APHIS–2009–0091, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A–03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737–1238

DEADLINE: Friday, December 9, 2011.

Please also send a copy of your comments to your Congressman and Senators. If you don’t know who represents you, you can find out at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov

Here are talking points you can use for your comments, followed by sample comments and more detailed information.

 

 

TALKING POINTS

 

1) The agency should withdraw the proposed rule. If the export market would benefit from the proposed rule, as the agency claims, then the agribusinesses that export meat should pay the costs and offer economic premiums to livestock producers to encourage them to participate in a voluntary system.

2) The agency needs to identify the specific diseases of concern and analyze how to best address those diseases – including prevention measures — rather than continuing to push a one-size-fits-all tracking program.

3) At the very least, the agency needs to make significant changes to the proposed regulation:

  • Remove the new requirements for identifying chickens and other poultry. Small farmers and backyard poultry owners should not be burdened with identifying and tracking birds, and the agency has not shown any need to impose these new requirements.
  • Do not apply any new identification requirements to feeder cattle.
  • Do not apply new identification and paperwork requirements to direct-to-slaughter cattle, including both for custom and for retail sales.
  • Recognize brands and tattoos as official forms of identification.

SAMPLE COMMENTS: Please personalize these sample comments rather than doing a form letter. The personalization can be just a few sentences at the beginning of the comments, but it does make a significant difference. And if you have time to write more detailed comments, that’s even better!

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

I am a __________________ (farmer, local foods consumer, backyard poultry owner, horse owner, etc.). I am very concerned that the proposed rule will __________ (not be workable for my farm; impose costs on my farmers that will then be passed on to me; make it prohibitively expensive for me to order baby chicks from out-of-state hatcheries; etc.)

I urge the USDA to withdraw the proposed rule. If the export market would benefit from the proposed rule, as the agency claims, then the meat packing companies that export meat should pay the costs and offer economic premiums to livestock producers to encourage them to participate in a voluntary system. For disease control, the agency needs to focus on preventative measures rather than after-the-fact tracking.

At the very least, the agency needs to make significant changes to the proposed regulation:

  • Remove the new requirements for identifying chickens and other poultry. Small farmers and backyard poultry owners should not be burdened with identifying and tracking birds, and the agency has not shown any need to impose these new requirements.
  • Do not apply any new identification requirements to feeder cattle.
  • Do not apply new identification and paperwork requirements to direct-to-slaughter cattle, including both for custom and for retail sales.
  • Recognize brands and tattoos as official forms of identification.

I urge you to prioritize family farms and our rural communities over the export interests of Agribusiness.

Sincerely,
Name
Address
City, State Zip

 

 

MORE INFORMATION

 

The program is fundamentally flawed because it is not designed to address the real problems we face, and it imposes burdens on producers for the benefit of Big Agribusiness’ export markets.

We have asked USDA for data showing where the problems are in tracking animals currently. Rather than provide that data, USDA hand-picked a few anecdotes, out of the millions of animals in this country. But the agency’s unsupported claims do not justify imposing broad new tracking requirements. Small farms are not the source of most disease problems in this country, yet the proposed rule will burden them unfairly.

POULTRY: Small-scale, pastured, and backyard poultry will be particularly hard hit by the proposed rule. While the large confinement operations will be able to use “group identification,” the definition of the term does not cover most independent operations. Since thousands of people order baby chicks from hatcheries in other states, these birds cross state lines the first day of their lives. Even if the farmer or backyard owner never takes the bird across state lines again, they will have to use individually sealed and numbered leg bands on each chicken, turkey, goose, or duck to comply with the language of the proposed rule.

Even if the definition of “group identification” were changed to cover small operations, the result would be new paperwork requirements on almost every person who owns chickens, turkeys, or other poultry. The agency has entirely failed to justify imposing these burdens on poultry owners.

CATTLE: Along with new identification requirements imposed on all breeding-age cattle, the proposed rule would require identification and paperwork on calves and young cattle (“feeder cattle”), even though there’s no evidence that such requirements will help disease control. In addition, veterinarians and sale barns will have to keep records for 5 years, even though many of these cattle will have been consumed years earlier, creating mountains of useless paperwork.

Producers will only be able to use brands or tattoos as identification if their States enter into special agreements. State agencies will have to build extensive database systems to handle all of the data, creating problems for States’ budgets.

HORSES: The proposed rule also requires that horse owners identify their animals before crossing state lines. Although most, if not all, horses that are shipped across state lines are already identified in some fashion, the proposed rule creates a new complication: Whether or not a physical description is sufficient identification will be determined by the health officials in the receiving state, leaving vets and horse owners struggling with significant uncertainty as they have to anticipate what will be allowed.

SHEEP, GOATS, and HOGS: The draft rule also covers sheep, goats, and hogs that cross state lines, essentially federalizing the existing programs which have been adopted state-by-state until now.

 

You can read the proposed rule at www.aphis.usda.gov/traceability/downloads/2011/Proposed%20Rule.pdf