As we alerted you in April, the USDA is holding a series of meetings to discuss Animal ID. We objected to the timing of the initial meetings – all scheduled during the extremely busy ranching season of April and May – and USDA has added two more meetings in response. The first will be in Omaha on July 18, and the second will be in Fort Worth on July 20.
The agency’s stated purpose is to discuss the Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) program and to get feedback from producers on how it is (and is not) working. The agency’s documents for the meetings, however, reflect a desire to push for a much more extensive, NAIS-type program, with electronic (RFID) identification and intra-state requirements. These expensive programs would disproportionately burden small-scale and pasture-based producers, in the name of profits for meat packers and technology companies (See “More Information,” below).
Make your voice heard at the meetings or by submitting written comments!
ACTION ITEM #1: Attend a Meeting
Nebraska, July 18, 2017
Embassy Suites Omaha Downtown
555 S. 10th Street
Omaha, NE 68102
Texas, July 20, 2017
Dallas/Fort Worth Marriott Hotel & Golf Club at Champions Circle
3300 Championship Pkwy.
Fort Worth, TX 76177
You can register for the meeting at www.aphis.usda.gov/animal-health/adt-meeting-registrations
Please also email Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org so that we can coordinate with you.
ACTION ITEM #2: Submit Written Comments
The agency has extended the deadline for written comments, as we had requested, until July 31. Comments can be submitted at https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=APHIS-2017-0016-0001
Sample comment for consumers:
Extensive new Animal ID requirements could have significant impacts on our agricultural and food system.
I buy my food from small farmers who would be particularly hard hit by the cost and burdens associated with electronic ID. I do not want to see the farmers who provide food for my family and me burdened by requirements for the benefit of those who are exporting to other countries. A local food system is vital to our health, economy, and food security, and I urge USDA to prioritize the needs of small farmers.
Sample comment for producers:
Any action by USDA should be limited to the question of whether young cattle should be required to be identified when crossing state lines. That is the issue that USDA committed to reviewing when it adopted ADT just a few years ago.
I oppose any requirement for electronic ID because it will be disproportionately expensive and burdensome for small producers like me.
[Add any comments or experience you have with animal ID requirements. Have you shipped cattle or poultry across state lines? Have you been involved with a traceback? What would be the impact on you if young cattle (under 18 months) had to have individual identification? What would be the impact if electronic ID were required — how much would the cost of the tags and readers impact your profit margin? If you live in Michigan, which already requires electronic ID, what have been the impacts?]
Why are we so concerned? The idea of a comprehensive animal ID program may sound good. But consider this:
- It’s too expensive. The profit margins for most livestock producers are tiny. A NAIS-type program means not only buying RFID tags (which are more expensive than the traditional metal or plastic ones), but having the infrastructure to properly place the tags, read the tags, and manage the data.
- It doesn’t address animal disease. Traceability is part of being able to control and limit the spread of disease – but it does nothing to actually address disease. The real focus needs to be on prevention If the government and industry spent even a fraction of the time that they have spent on NAIS on addressing overcrowding in feedlots, poor nutrition and the overuse of drugs, and preventing imports from countries with outbreaks, we would have far healthier animals and less risk of disease in this country. But those things cost the industry money and limit their international markets, so they’d rather focus on tagging and tracking animals.
- It’s about money. The real reason the industry players want electronic ID and tracking is to boost their own profits. The first time around, it was about exports to South Korea and Japan – because, with a 100% traceability program, exporters have greater leverage to claim that countries must open their borders to our products. This time, they’re talking about exporting to China. Not to mention the profits to be had from selling tens of millions of electronic tags, or from managing the massive databases that would be part of the system. Multiple companies and trade organizations stand to make a lot of money from the program – at the expense of the vast majority of farmers and ranchers.
We don’t need every animal to have an electronic tag in its ear and its information entered in a database. What we need are programs that support independent producers, a vibrant competitive market, and healthy animal management to prevent disease. Unfortunately, it appears that we will have to fight this battle all over again, and we need your help to succeed!