Animal traceability comment period continues

Sep 30, 2011

The Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health recently met to discuss various aspects of the new proposed rule on traceability for livestock moving interstate. Like the recent National Animal Identification System, discussion about the proposed traceability rule has become a hot topic throughout the industry.

South Dakota Stockgrowers Association Director Bill Kluck said that some groups are asking that feeder cattle not be included in the proposal until the breeding age cattle have provided a test run through the program.

Discussion of the loss of the hot iron brand has also been a deal breaker for some.

“There has been some confusion over the role of livestock branding in relation to the proposed system; CDA’s [Colorado Department of Agriculture’s] Brands division plays a fundamental role in verifying livestock ownership in Colorado and all brand states and this will not change under the proposed rule,” said Colorado Brand Commissioner Rick Wahlert.

“While a brand is not defined as official identification in the proposed rule, there are provisions that enable states to use a brand to move cattle interstate.” USDA supports the use of brands to identify cattle moving interstate. According to USDA, the approach in the proposed regulation will provide flexibility for states and tribes to use brands for complying with the proposed requirements for interstate movement.

Wildlife transportation was also included in the discussion and considered more complex with some gray areas, especially around the topic of who’s responsible for testing. The way it is set up now, fish and wildlife management would need to be collaborating with animal health.

During the meeting, the committee also discussed USDA’s bovine tuberculosis (TB) program, including possible wildlife surveillance requirements, test-and-remove management plans, and the issue of indemnity within the context of the new TB/brucellosis framework that is being developed.

According to USDA, since 2002, detections of bovine tuberculosis in Arizona, California, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico and Texas have required the destruction of more than 25,000 cattle. A new detection in June in New Mexico will add to this total.

USDA has spent approximately $90 million on owner indemnification and control activities. Producers are financially affected by strict movement controls applied after new detections. Since 2004, USDA has tested 787,000 animals in response to TB outbreaks.

Marketing in TB outbreak zones was discussed, with the topic centering on a possible TB-approved feedlot.

Committee member Chuck Massengil said beef producers would like to find somewhere, a sales avenue, where they could still market their cattle, knowing full well they would take a price cut. But it was pointed out that most states don’t want to have the moniker of a quarantined or, as the group chose to call it, a TB-approved feedlot.

Marketing has also been an obvious problem for producers in a TB-zoned area.

Herds are being released early now, but USDA requests insurance monitoring after the release. The question was raised whether or not it is the best use of federal money to keep depopulating herds.

The new framework does cover some of these issues. Cases would be quarantined and enforced but we would not be requiring testing for those in the zone, according to Massengill.

Indemnity was also a key topic in the meeting. “There’s a loss of production that has to be taken into account. A producer has to start over,” committee member Charlie Rogers said. In addition, discussion was raised over the purebred producer’s value and loss.

While the public comment period is scheduled to end on Nov. 9, 2011, 49 advocacy groups have sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting an extension, citing drought, bad timing, and a lack of internet access. The groups say they need an additional 60 days to lodge their opinions and want the department to extend the comment period to Jan. 8, 2012.

The Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health will schedule another meeting and press release in October. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor