Action Alert (Texas): Call Your Texas Legislators to Oppose New Animal ID Bill

The Texas Legislature is considering a bill that would authorize the Texas Animal Health Commission to adopt federal regulations and require every chicken to have a permanent leg band with a unique ID number when it is sold or moved to a new location. While commercial hatcheries and large confinement operations would be exempt, the requirement would impact both small farmers and people with backyard chickens.

The bill also gives the agency a blank check to adopt federal regulations governing animal ID for all kinds of livestock animals, including goats, sheep, pigs, cattle, and horses. The federal regulations govern the movement of animals between states, which is not a frequent occurrence for small farmers. But imposing those same regulations on every movement within the state could cause significant problems for small farmers.

poulty-leg-band

Photo by Wendy Thomas

No one knows what federal rules may be adopted next year or 5 years from now, which means that the Texas Legislature is buying into the federal regulations without even knowing what they will be!

Tagging animals, without having any connection to disease control measures, is unnecessary and time-consuming. This creates a significant burden for small farmers, ultimately making it more difficult for them to remain viable sources of local food for the community.

The bill gives this open-ended authority to the Texas Animal Health Commission. This is the agency that tried to impose mandatory premises registration and the National Animal Identification System on every livestock and poultry owner, which would have hurt thousands of small farmers. (More information is at the end of the alert.)

Your calls do make a difference! The good news is that the raw milk and cottage foods bills have both been approved by the House Public Health Committee. Individuals’ calls and personalized emails really do matter!

 

TAKE ACTION

Call your Texas State Representative and Senator to urge them to vote NO on HB 2311 and SB 1233, the Animal ID bills.

You can find out who represents you at www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx
or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630

Message:

“Hi, my name is _____ and I am a constituent. I urge Representative ______ (or Senator _____) to vote against HB 2311 and SB 1233, the Animal ID bills. While the bills sound like they limit the Texas Animal Health Commission’s authority, they actually do the opposite – they are giving the agency renewed authority to adopt Animal ID rules. This is bad for backyard poultry owners and small farmers, and it’s ultimately bad for the community they provide food for. The state’s animal ID programs should be tied to actual disease control measures, not simply tagging animals for the sake of tagging. I urge you to oppose HB 2311 and SB 1233.”

 

BONUS ACTION

The House version of the bill, HB 2311, is being considered in the Agriculture Committee.  After you call your own Representative and Senator, please send an email to the Committee members urging them to vote no on HB 2311:

Tracy King (Chair)
Email: Tracy.King@house.state.tx.us

Charles “Doc” Anderson (Vice-Chair)
Email: Charles.Anderson@house.state.tx.us

Mary Gonzalez
Email: Mary.Gonzalez@house.state.tx.us

Tim Kleinschmidt
Email: Tim.Kleinschmidt@house.state.tx.us

Drew Springer
Email: Drew.Springer@house.state.tx.us

James White
Email: James.White@house.state.tx.us

Note: Kyle Kacal, the sponsor of the bill, is also on the Agriculture Committee

 

MORE INFORMATION

Requiring animals to be tagged, with no connection to any testing or other disease control measure, is not the answer for animal health or food safety. The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) already has extensive powers to address animal diseases and to include animal ID as part of those programs. This bill, however, gives the agency authority to require animal identification solely for the sake of identification, unrelated to any real animal disease control measure.

Back in 2005, at the urging of Agribusiness groups, the Texas Legislature adopted a law that allowed the TAHC to impose mandatory National Animal Identification System (NAIS). NAIS would have required that anyone who owned even a single livestock or poultry animal register their property, individually ID each animal (in most cases with electronic ID such as microchips or RFID), and report their movements to the government. The agency rushed forward with the first stage of NAIS, and it only stopped when thousands of Texans cried foul.

The outcry against NAIS was so great all over the country that the U.S. Department of Agriculture withdrew the program in 2009. When NAIS died, so did the agency’s legal authority to impose animal identification requirements unrelated to disease control programs.

The mandatory NAIS statute in Texas is defunct. At this moment, the TAHC can only legally require identification when it is connected to a disease control program.

HB 2311 and SB 1233 breathe new life into the agency’s authority, however. The original intent behind the bills was to address the fact that TAHC has been overstepping its bounds, most recently by issuing a mandatory cattle ID rule that requires cattle – even those going direct to slaughter – to be ear tagged. But the bills have been amended to undermine that original intent, and they now grandfather in the agency’s illegal regulation.

You can read the text of the bill here.

Agribusiness industry groups are insisting that the bill include all species and allow the agency to impose federal regulations onto every farmer.

We need both farmers and consumers who care about small and diversified livestock farms – which are healthy sources of local food – to speak up! Please take action today.