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Animal Disease Traceability Too Expensive, Rural Coalition Says

A coalition led by farmers and ranchers is using a last-minute strategy to stop USDA’s new Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) program. The groups involved are using economic grounds – especially the added costs that animal identification will impose on rural America.

In a 9-page letter to the Executive Office of Management and Budget, a unit of the White House, the sixteen organizations in the coalition say animal traceability could cost the U.S. cattle industry more than $1 billion a year.

The so-called ADT rule is a replacement for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), which became so unpopular with rural America that Congress for 2010 cut out its funding before it could be implemented.

ADT is essentially a diet version of NAIS. It is limited to animals moved interstate, will be run by state and tribal governments, is “low tech,” and is being implemented only through transparent federal rule making.

As soon as USDA opened the new program to public comments last fall, ADT came under fire almost as much as the old NAIS had.

Now the opposition is centered on the financial impact ADT will have on farmers and ranchers, and some of the faulty reasoning it says USDA used in working up the proposal.  For example, it says USDA’s estimate that “only 30 million cattle” cross state borders each year is “contradicted by the publicly available data on the cattle industry.”

“The USDA has not done their due diligence investigating the true fiscal impact this will have on the livestock industry,” says Mark A. Kastel, senior farm policy analyst for the organic policing group called The Cornucopia Institute.  “Our concern is that the economic burden of this rulemaking, some of which is duplicative of many effective disease control programs currently utilized, will fall unfairly on family-scale farmers and ranchers.”

The organizations put the number of cattle moving across state lines annually at closer to 55 million. The farm and ranch groups, including the Billings, MT-based United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF), point out that most feedlots and slaughterhouses are concentrated in six Midwestern and Western states.

“While we cannot provide a definitive number, it is clear that more than 30 million cattle cross state lines each year,” the letter to OMB says.

For that reason, the opponents say USDA underestimated the economic burden the new regulation places on cattle owners and ancillary businesses like sale barns and veterinarians.

USDA’s estimate that puts cost per animal at $1 to $2.50 is also off, the groups charge.  The figure is a “gross underestimate,” they say.

The letter cites research by North Dakota State University putting the cost of tag placement and documentation at $7.00 per calf. The NDSU study says when “weight loss while handling calves” is figured into the total -something it calls “the shrink,” another $10 to $20 of income potential is lost.

Using the NDSU math and its estimate of 50 million head crossing state lines each year, the letter claims the cost of ADT to the cattle industry could reach as high as $1.35 billion a year.

The groups, which also included the raw milk-promoting Weston A. Price Foundation, also charge that USDA did not address the cost of the ID program to poultry owners. “Many people order day-old chicks from hatcheries, commonly out of state,” they say.

Finally, the opponent groups say USDA only compared ADT to NAIS, and did not compare it to other alternatives.

The other groups that signed the letter, including rural and consumer organizations, are: Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Cattle Producers of Louisiana, Community Farm Alliance (KY), Family Farm Defenders, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Kansas Cattlemen’s Association, National Farm Family Coalition, Organization for Competitive Market, Powder River Basin Resource Council (WY), South Dakota Stockgrowers Associations, Virginia Independent Farmers and Consumers Association, and the Western Organization of Resource Council.

© Food Safety News
  • Jasper

    Huh, imagine that. The usual suspect lineup of small local food cults all banding together to oppose animal disease control and food safety.
    They say it is too costly! That is saying they are routinely cutting corners on animal disease control and food safety to put a few more grubby bucks in their jeans and they don’t want disease control to cut into profits (wait a minute, aren’t we always told that is the root evilness of those nasty LARGE food producers, go figure).
    Funny thing is this program only tracks interstate commerce (that’s mostly the big professional producers) so it should not impact the wonderworking upscale boutique local foods market. Another funny thing is how Kathleen Merrigan over at USDA wants us to “know our farmer” but our little farmer wants to remain anonymous when it comes to tracking disease back to the farm of origin, back to “THE SOURCE” as John Munsell is always preaching on behalf of R-CALF. Well, NAIS was the original solution and this new program ADT is a much softened compromise. Still no acceptance by the small farm special interests.
    I guess we are getting to “know our farmer” after all and it’s not quite as rosy or quaintly prosaic as Merrigan predicted it would be. It all comes back to greed and maximizing profit after all, even for the pristine “little guys”. Especially for them judging from all the self-important organizations they’ve trumped up to do their special interest lobbying.

  • Sharon Zecchinelli

    There are some words that make me laugh with the sheer irony, and transparent is one of them.
    Anyway, all we have to do is look to Austrailia’s animal ID program to see what a money pit that is, what a dismal failure that is, and to see how many ranchers it put out of business. Not to mention the high cost of the fines and fees.
    We said NO before, we say No again.

  • When will the world realize all government programs are about expanding government jobs and salaries? The smoke screen may be food safety, disease prevention, export profit or IRS counting all farm inventory for tax purposes — it is about government jobs and increased costs to the tax payers. Neil Hammershitzs’ job depends on getting animal ID “taxed” on the livestock producers. He has worked on this for over 20 years without success and he only has a few years left for retirement. It is about Neil and USDA jobs. For more info http://www.naisstinks.com.

  • Jasper, very, very few of us are getting wealthy in our profession. Most farmers have to have someone in the family with a second job to make ends meet. So your premise that we don’t want a new animal ID and traceability system because it will reduce our profits and we’re just greedy is completely off base.

  • Virgil

    Ha ha that list of all those bogus organizations appended to the end of this article is a real hoot. Cornucopia and R-CALF always puff up their press releases with a tedious list of little known inbred cult organizations. Sometimes they print out 80 or 90. Other times they list 160 if they think they need more pretend clout to offset some especially untrue statement they are making in the press release. I’ve even seen them list little local church lady groups. It is all such an amusing scam, these special interest groups for the small farm lobby. Some gullible people are probably fooled by it but USDA has seen this slapstick comedy many many times before.

  • Well, excuse us Virgil for not trusting govt. bureaurats or your anedotal rumors.
    We definitely don’t need more govt. overseers. This is America not Europe. Fortunately, most folks here still value their liberty, including economic liberty.

  • Ken G.

    Let’s understand this idea, this kneejerk drama asserting disease control is too costly for small local farmers to live with. The article states the expense to implement the program will range from $1 to as much as $10, even $20 per head of beef in the worst case scenario. That does seem like a lot of dough…until we complete the analysis by looking at the finished value of a disease-free beef.
    I checked the Niman Ranch website for some small farm style beef prices and it looks like these effete little boutique farmers are selling beef for about $1.50 per ounce. Now a steer is said to weigh around 1500 lbs and is processed into maybe 800 lbs of finished product. That’s 12,800 ounces of beef cuts for a total of about $19,200 per beef at retail. Even if we screw up and waste over half the product, that’s still $8000 per head. Please explain to us how $10 or $20 per head to assure disease control will bankrupt these small farmers. This disease control program will cost less, far less than 1/2 of 1% of farm revenues. Can’t afford disease control and food safety? Seriously?

  • Barbara S

    Jasper and Virgil sound like the same person. He’s either naive or works for USDA, because he trusts the government to tell him the truth, and thinks that small farmers are cutting corners to make bigger profits due to greed. (I guess all that money is how they became SMALL farmers.)
    Let me explain something to you. NAIS and ADT were never about food safety and only about disease management and damage control AFTER USDA allows a foreign disease to cross our borders. Why would they do that? Because Big Ag wants to be able to import without quarantines.
    And, both plans include non-food livestock. That means equines and pet livestock. Explain that one if its about food safety!

  • Joanna

    How do we know the government is lying to us? Sure, they could be but so could these farmers be lying to us. Maybe they are not even real farmers. Maybe they are lying about that too. We can check up on the government so I believe them before trusting somebody dressed like a farmer who is selling me stuff to tell me the truth. I have shopped at farmers markets before and have been lied to about who really grew the food. This might not be different from that.

  • Barbara S

    Why would a non-farmer even be aware of USDA’s plans for livestock? Why would a farmer that doesn’t grow food livestock want to hide the origin of your food? And, for crying out loud!-traceabilty does NOT contribute to food safety. If you did as much research into USDA’s plans as I have, you would know better than to make such a dumb statement.

  • Once again government wants to put the blame and financial burden on the small farmers with no compensations or benefit while not solving any actual problem. NAIS/ADT is really about export markets and profits for big producers. If they want a system of tracking then they should create their own private voluntary system, not one funded by tax payers. We small farmers don’t need NAIS/ADT. We know where are animals are and can trace them from breeding to the customer’s plate without any government “help.”

  • Once again government wants to put the blame and financial burden on the small farmers with no compensations or benefit while not solving any actual problem. NAIS/ADT is really about export markets and profits for big producers. If they want a system of tracking then they should create their own private voluntary system, not one funded by tax payers. We small farmers don’t need NAIS/ADT. We know where are animals are and can trace them from breeding to the customer’s plate without any government “help.”

  • Cheryl A.,, Baltimore

    Joanna makes a good point. I have been cheated at farmers markets too. Shifty sales people claim they grew stuff they really didn’t. They make all sorts of claims that are just lies to trick me into buying their overpriced crap. Now they make up clubs with important sounding names to lobby against food safety and animal disease control. I’m about fed up with all this chicanery. I say regulate these shady operators to keep my family safe from them.

  • Cindy

    I’m shocked at how many people seem to believe our government is trying to protect us. The same people who have now approved putting dead animals into our food supply, not to mention pink slime. Farmers markets are one thing, but at least you’re looking the guy in the eye. Go directly to the farm. See for yourself. But I can tell you one thing, the massive feed lots that supply beef for McDonald’s is not a healthy place. Cattle are standing shoulder to shoulder, ankle deep in cow dung and are full of low dose daily antibiotics and hormones and God knows what else. Just one of the reasons people are now immune to antibiotics. . . oy vey.

  • Barbara S

    Joanna & Cheryl,
    Why must my horses be tracked if I go for a ride in another state? Are you buying horsemeat?
    If you don’t trust that your local farmer is really local, or a farmer, then buy your food at the grocery store where you can rest assured that it has been properly tracked back to the warehouse it came from. Then, after you get sick, the gov’t will be able to place blame on someone. Does that make you feel safer?

  • Virginia

    Your horsie needs to be “tracked” so next time you want to trailer it over into the next state or across 4 states, even though your horse is a little sick, you will maybe think twice before tracking your disease all over the place. Certainly you will stop to consider if your neighbor recently was identified through traceback to be the farm of origin for some nasty horsie STD that wiped out an entire breeding season for some stable somewhere. Accountability bolstering informed and responsible behavior, that’s why we need a solid animal ID system. And accountability is precisely what these shady little fly by night operators are afraid of. It’s time to evolve into the 21st century girls.

  • to virginia and the other trolls on here who do not understand what NAIS/ADT would do to their freedoms and actually not even protect their food…I suggest you research what NAIS is and who it benefits- not you or me or our animals- NAIS is like saying I have an illness but I force YOU to take and pay for the meds then I declare I am healthy….that is what NAIS would do…it is funded by our tax dollars to benefit only corporate ag who would not have to follow those tracking rules and they would not be wiped out if disease was suspected. I agree with the others that say some of the comments for NAIS on here were written by the same person, probably someone in league with the USDA as their comments are based on fear and paranoid assertions.

  • Jennifer

    Sounds like Joanna and Cheryl are the same person. The vast majority of farmers that sell at a farmers market are honest hard working people, that care about bringing healthy (non-processed, chemical free) foods to anyone that wants it. Joanna and Cheryl if you are suspicious of the food at the farmers markets you have the choice to simply not buy it.You have the option of checking out those farmers before you buy their food. It’s very naive to believe the govt is out to protect you. For instance, many of the foods the FDA allows in our supermarkets have dangerous chemicals in it that cause cancer among other ailments. In my opinion it is waaaay more risky to buy a twinkie, or for that matter the store bought milk (which contains hormones, allergens, and possibly paratuberculosis which is NOT fully killed by pasteurization and is implicated in Crohn’s disease) all of which is approved by the FDA, than to buy meat and produce from your local farmer/farmers market.
    Joanna and Cheryl, I think you are both (or maybe it is one person) pawns of big ag companies, who are trying to put the small farmer out of business, by over regulating and adding costs to production. Do we REALLY want the ONLY food to come from factory farms, where the animals are inhumanely treated, where food is constantly being contaminated with serious pathogens, and toxic chemicals. Where are your brains!!!!

  • Joanna

    We definitely want a reliable flow of abundant, safe affordable food and that means we want it to come from modern producers within an effective efficient system. There will always be a lunatic fringe of consumers who prefer their food be grown on an old fashioned dung heap, mauled by crowds at a farmers market before being brought into the kitchen crawling with critters. We can’t feed the world that way and we wouldn’t want to. I can guess where your brains are.

  • Dog Doctor

    The saddest part of this debate is that we have forgotten history when Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service had a brucellosis eradication program, every cow, calf, and bull had a tag identifying since the program was phased out some 15 years ago. There have been several events where the identification system would have been helpful for example the 4 BSE cows that have been identified; we could have traced them forward and backwards. What is really amazing for the approximately 50 years while the program was existence no one complained about it, we were all willing to work for the common good improving human and animal health. I wonder what happened to the willingness to work for the country’s best interest instead of our interest first. I am glad our troops are stilling willing to put their self interests aside for the common good. From the comments, I can see that self interest has won the day over the common good, unfortunately I am not surprised. I guess the me generation of the 70’s & 80’s has come home.

  • Well, Big Ag and Cattlemen’s Associations lobbied long and hard to get the inspections of horse slaughter plants sneaked through in a backdoor sub-committee of four legislators. It is now legal again to have horse slaughter for human consumption plants on US soil. HOWEVER, the European Union – our biggest customer for horse meat – is now aware that American horses are unregulated, non-food animals and that their medications and many other products contain substances that are absolutely BANNED for ANY use in ANY food animal – Bute is just one of many.
    On July 1, 2013, the EU will stop accepting our horses unless we have implemented a traceability system comparable to the passport system used in the EU. If you think the NAIS is burdensome, wait until you see what a passport system looks like! It will be extremely burdensome and cost millions to implement – all for a few people who continue to believe they can make money slaughtering our horses. You might want to tell any associations you belong to to lay off lobbying for horse slaughter!
    Horse Passports And Why You Need Them: http://www.box.com/s/c26dc21083d75ce42223

  • I agree with the comment made by Ken G.
    This is greed on the farmer, not the government.
    For Christ sake, wake up and smell your BS. Do you think we don’t need a traceability system for cattle.
    If its too expensive for your cattle operation, then you must not be managing your business to well, you should sell the farm and work at McDonald’s.
    Really??? too expensive and we don’t need ADT.
    Open your eyes and look around you, third world countries are starting to use traceability systems.

  • Alton

    This is just the top of the iceberg,the next proposed tracking is on all livestock; goats, chickens, hogs, birds, and even horses. The cost of documentation with heavy fines will make even events like moving rodeo stock and “Mounted Search and Recsue” more expensive. Fines will be given even on ranches that are located in two or more states. If you think meat market prices are high now.

  • oldsalt

    Yep, it makes a lot of sense to have to report every animal that dies, brought down by varmints, jump the fence and disappear or in the case of poultry flies away. Yep, it will be easily to keep track of every animal when you are dealing with the turnover of 10 of thousand animals or more each month. Typical logic of city slickers that have no concept of the reality of farming and ranching.