A handful of livestock organizations are calling on the Trump administration to cancel scheduled meetings starting this week over an Animal Disease Traceability program at USDA.
R-CALF USA, the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association and the Western Organization of Resource Councils wrote President Donald Trump and Michael Young, USDA's acting deputy secretary, asking USDA to call off the hearings and halt any further action on the traceability program.
As USDA stated, the Animal Disease Traceability program was set up to know where diseased and at-risk animals are and when and where they've been. It helps ensure a rapid response when animal disease events take place.
Yet, one of the main drivers of the traceability program is exports. China, Japan and others want assurances if there is an outbreak affecting meat products that the livestock can be traced all the way back to the source farm. The lack of a comprehensive traceability problem has been one of the hindrances to getting the China market open. However, most packers now have their own traceability programs specifically for trade partners that want those assurances.
USDA has issued a new assessment of the traceability program that notes successes working with states and tribes to set up the parameters of the ID program. However, USDA also cites "significant gaps still exist within our tracing capabilities." And while there have been some agreement among some people to expand the ADT, there are also "regional differences in traceability needs."
The ADT is set up for cattle in interstate commerce, but USDA notes a highly contagious animal may never leave the state of its birth. Further, using simple visual ID tags has limits as well. There can be human errors recording and transcribing the numbers. Still, electronic tagging has its own limits, not to mention the fact that there remains a great deal of resistance. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/…
The USDA assessment also seems to eliminate a great deal of history. The report declares that the history of the program began in 2010, seemingly ignoring the more than a decade of anger and pushback in the countryside to ADT's first genesis, the National Animal Identification System, or NAIS. The push for a national animal tracking program goes back even before the U.S. was hit with its first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, but the BSE cases in 2003 really rocketed the issue into orbit. Leaders at livestock organizations found themselves frequently attending major veterinary meetings where there were literally hours-long open forums and debate between USDA officials and opponents over animal ID programs, databases, reporting requirements and so on. Then there were non-USDA meetings across the country as well. State legislatures pushed back, declaring they would make sure cattle producers in their states wouldn't be subject to a federal tracking program.
In some parts, animal ID stoked as much anti-federal resistance in the countryside as the Tea Party.
The groups that sent the letter Monday noted, "Yet USDA now appears poised to expand the (ADT) program, moving toward a version that looks more like the discredited NAIS approach." Further, the groups criticized USDA for "hastily planned public meetings" to discuss expansion of the traceability program.
Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA, said in an interview with DTN that producers now get premiums for working with packers on ID programs. Yet, such premiums would disappear if USDA pushed for a more extensive animal ID system mainly focused on satisfying the needs of exporters.
USDA issued a public notice of the ID meetings on March 21. The first meeting is today in Oklahoma City. Critics note there doesn't appear to be any notice of the meetings in the Federal Register. Further, the meetings fall in the middle of critical spring work, the groups noted.
These meetings will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in seven locations:
--April 11: Oklahoma City, OK, Tower Hotel Oklahoma City, 3233 Northwest Expressway
--April 13: Riverdale, MD, USDA Center at Riverside, 4700 River Road
--April 20: Nashville, TN, Renaissance Nashville Hotel, 611 Commerce Street
--May 2: Bloomington, MN, Embassy Suites Minneapolis Airport, 7901 34th Avenue South
--May 4: Denver, CO, Doubletree by Hilton Denver, 3203 Quebec Street
--May 11: Rancho Cordova, CA, Sacramento Marriott Rancho Cordova, 11211 Point East Drive
--May 24: Billings, MT, Hilton Garden Inn Billings, 2465 Grant Road
Various documents on USDA's ADT program can be found at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/…
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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