Coalition Urges White House to Reject USDA's Animal ID Rule
USDA and Corporate Agribusiness Continue to Push Animal ID Scheme
Consumers and Independent Producers Lose if Big Ag Wins on Animal Tracking
Washington, DC - A coalition of agriculture and consumer organizations from across the nation is fighting back against the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) complicated and expensive animal identification program. In a letter to the White HouseOffice of Management and Budget (OMB), 38 organizations urged the Administration to recognize the high costs the new rule will impose on family farmers, ranchers, related businesses, and other citizens who own animals.
"The USDA's cost analysis is riddled with flawed assumptions," asserted Judith McGeary, Executive Director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, who serves as Vice-Chair of the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Animal Health. "One of the most egregious flaws is that the agency completely disregarded the costs that will be imposed, in both out of pocket expenses and paperwork burdens, on tens of thousands of people who own poultry, from small diversified farmers to backyard poultry enthusiasts."
While USDA already has traceability requirements as part of existing animal disease control programs, the new program would greatly expand what animals must be identified, including feeder cattle, which are processed at a young age and never enter the breeding herd.
"The USDA's cost analysis makes it sound as if it would be cheap and easy to tag all of the feeder cattle, but the reality for family farmers and western ranchers is very different. The new rule will impose significant costs in both time and labor that USDA has simply ignored," stated Gilles Stockton, a Montana rancher and member of the Western Organization of Resource Councils.
The coalition also notes that the agency failed to address the increased costs to livestock-related businesses, such as veterinarians and sale barns.
"On the one hand, the agency points to diseases with long incubation periods, such as tuberculosis, to justify these extensive new recordkeeping requirements," explained Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA. "But, at the same time, the agency plans to require the same paperwork for feeder cattle, which are butchered between one and two years of age. So the majority of the records that the vets and auction barns keep will be on animals that died years before. All this does is impose unnecessary burdens on small businesses, accelerating the loss of independent businesses to corporate industrial-scale agribusiness."
The USDA has presented its traceability scheme as an animal health program, but it has emphasized the importance of the export market to the United States in promoting its new plan. The powerful meatpacking lobby has continued to push for such mandated traceability requirements in order to develop international standards for exports. Critics have suggested this is not in the American public's best interest, however, since the U.S. is a net importer of beef and cattle and the profits from the export market go to a small handful of massive meatpacking companies.
"Consumers need the USDA to start focusing on the animal health and food safety risks posed by industrialized meat production," said Patty Lovera, Assistant Director of Food & Water Watch. "If USDA devoted as much energy to preventing animal diseases as it has to promoting animal tracking, our food system would be in much better shape."
"If Americans don't want their food supply to cave like the banking and housing industries, they need to urge the USDA to re-write the rule and address the needs of family farmers rather than the meatpacking lobby," concluded Ms. McGeary. "The coalition urges the OMB to return the rule to USDA for a thorough and complete analysis, which must acknowledge that the rule is economically significant."
The organizations signing the letter include: American Grassfed Association, American Policy Center, Ashtabula Geauga Lake Counties Farmers Union (Ohio), Buckeye Quality Beef Association, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Cattlemen's Texas Longhorn Registry, Cattle Producers of Louisiana, Center for Media and Democracy/ Food Rights Network, Certified Naturally Grown, Community Farm Alliance (KY), The Cornucopia Institute, Dakota Rural Action, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Food and Water Watch, Food Democracy Now!, Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming, Kansas Cattlemen's Association, Local Harvest, Maine Alternative Agriculture Association, Michigan Land Trustees, Mission in Citrus Homeless Shelters (FL), Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Montana Farmers Union, National Family Farm Coalition, Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, Nebraska Slow Food, Northeast Organic Farming Association - Connecticut, Northeast Organic Farming Association - Massachusetts, Organization for Competitive Markets, Organic Consumers Association, Powder River Basin Resource Council (WY), R-CALF USA, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, Western Organization of Resource Councils, Weston A. Price Foundation, and the Wintergarden Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (TX).
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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.