On Friday, April 26, 2013, the Texas House of Representatives voted to pass the Animal ID bill, HB 2311, which authorizes the Texas Animal Health Commission to adopt animal ID requirements that are no more stringent than the federal ones. While that may sound good, there is a significant problem – the federal rules only apply interstate, so this bill allows the agency to adopt those same standards and make them apply to every movement within the state, which is far more burdensome on small farmers and animal owners.
The bill also provides open-ended authority for the state agency to adopt any future federal regulations. This could affect anyone who owns chickens, sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, or horses –from small farmers to pet owners.
But the fight is not over! The Senate still has to approve the bill. Please send the emails below to speak up for our rights as farmers and consumers of local food!
For more information, including responses to the Agribusiness’s misleading claims, visit our webpage on the current Texas Animal ID bill.
Email your Senator with the message text at the end of this alert. Please add a personal sentence or two at the beginning about why you care, to increase the impact.
Look up your State Senator at www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us and use this formula to send them an email:
The email is much longer than what we normally encourage you to send to your legislators in the middle of a hectic legislative session. But since so many Representatives chose to ignore the calls and short emails that told them how their constituents wanted them to vote, we need to make sure the Senators see that you have the facts on your side and you expect them to pay attention!
The Senate vote could happen very quickly, so it’s vital to send the email as soon as possible.
Hold your Representative accountable. This is important, or they will simply continue to ignore your voice in favor of the Agribusiness interests.
If your Representative voted YES on the Animal ID bill, HB 2311, please send them the same email as your Senator, but change the opening and closing:
Opening: “As a constituent, I am outraged that you voted yes on HB 2311, the Animal ID bill.” (plus a personalized sentence or two)
Closing: “I am deeply disappointed that you chose to side with the agency bureaucracy and Agribusiness groups rather than stand up for the interests of small farmers and animal owners, as well as the consumers who rely on them for sources of quality local food.”
If your Representative voted NO on the bill, please be sure to send them a short and simple thank you. They need to know you’re watching when they do the right thing, too.
Look up your State Representative at www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us and use this formula to send them an email:
EMAIL MESSAGE TEXT:
(Note: Please remember to add a personal sentence or two at the beginning about why you care, to increase the impact of this message.)
As a constituent, I urge you to vote no on the Animal ID bill, HB 2311 / SB 1233.
- The bill gives the state agency authority to apply federal regulations — which currently apply on an interstate basis only — to animal movements within the state. This is far more burdensome for small farmers and animal owners.
- The bill goes further, and allows the adoption of any future federal animal ID regulations, without knowing what those may be.
- The agency already has ample authority to address diseases, and it should not be given authority to require tagging simply for tagging’s sake.
The proponents argue that the bill doesn’t actually require anything. While that is true, the bill gives the agency authority to adopt federal regulations, both those that exist now and whatever may be adopted in the future. The legislature is in essence giving the agency extensive lawmaking powers, without even knowing what the future federal rules will involve.
Current federal regulations require the tagging of individual chickens and other poultry. The Animal Disease Traceability Rule states: “Poultry moving interstate must be officially identified” unless they come from a commercial hatchery (and even then, there are recordkeeping requirements). Poultry must be identified either by “sealed and numbered leg bands” or group identification. Group identification is defined so that it effectively applies only to large producers who handle their animals in isolated lots; since small farmers don’t do that, they will have to use individually sealed and numbers leg bands. (For more information, see the USDA’s final rule on Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate.)
The bill goes even further and gives the agency the authority to go beyond the federal standards on a 2/3 vote of the Commission. While this may sound like it has limited applicability, the truth is that the Commission almost always votes unanimously.
There was no legitimate reason for giving the agency this authority. The agency already has ample authority to address disease threats under Chapters 161, 162, 163, 164, 165, 167, and 168 of the Agriculture Code. There are disease control programs that cover every species, and the agency also has broad general powers: “The commission may act to eradicate or control any disease or agent of transmission for any disease that affects livestock, exotic livestock, domestic fowl, or exotic fowl …. The commission may adopt any rules necessary to carry out the purposes of this subsection, including rules concerning testing, movement, inspection, and treatment.” (Texas Agriculture Code Section 161.041(b))
The claim that the agency already has unlimited authority to adopt animal ID requirements is wrong. The agency only has the power that you, the Legislature, give it. Did you ever ask the industry groups to identify the statute that supposedly gives the agency unlimited authority? In 2005, the Legislature gave the agency authority in Section 161.056 to implement a program “that is consistent with the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Identification System” (NAIS). Both the agency and Agribusiness industry groups claimed at the time that this new authority was needed because the agency lacked authority to do Animal ID programs otherwise.
The USDA formally withdrew the NAIS in February 2010, making it a dead program. Any authority that is linked to it is dead also. No other section of the Agriculture Code references animal identification separate from a disease control program. Just as in 2005, the agency now lacks authority to require animal tagging except as connected to a disease control measure. HB 2311 / SB 1233 gives the agency new authority.
This is not an issue of federal law trumping state law. The federal animal traceability regulations explicitly apply only to interstate commerce, and USDA has explicitly left the decision of what to do in-state to the States themselves. It is entirely within your power to protect us from having those regulations applied in-state.
I urge you to stand up for the interests of small farmers, animal owners, and the consumers who rely on them for food. Please vote no on HB 2311 / SB 1233.