Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Farmers, Ranchers Call For USDA To Extend Comment Period For Animal ID Proposal

49 advocacy groups question USDA decision to schedule public comment period during Fall harvest and record-breaking drought; ask for new deadline in Jan. 2012...

Citing drought, bad timing, and a lack of internet access, forty-nine advocacy groups representing family farmers, ranchers, and consumers from across the US have sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting an extension for the public comment period for the “Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate” proposal. The comment period opened in August and is scheduled to end on November 9, 2011, but the groups say they need an additional sixty days to lodge their opinions, and want the Department to immediately announce an extension to January 8, 2012. (Above: President Obama met with livestock owners on Aug. 17th during his Rural Bus Tour)

The USDA proposal calls for IDing animals with brands, ear tags, and other "low tech" devices, and keeping complicated records for livestock moving across state lines in order to trace disease outbreaks. Stakeholders have criticized it as burdensome from both privacy and economic standpoints, and they need more time to understand the full ramifications of the current proposal, the letter says.

"No traceability program can succeed without the cooperation of animal owners," the Aug. 26th letter warned. "Failure to provide this time will both further alienate animal owners and deprive the agency of useful input."

The groups have good reason for calling for the extension of the comment period.

"The period for public comment coincides with the fall harvest and comes during the worst drought ever recorded in some major livestock production regions,” Judith McGeary, Executive Director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance and vice-chair of the USDA Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health, said in a statement.

Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas have been hardest hit by the drought, which has caused crop losses, a spike in prices, and devastating wildfires.

“Our farmers and ranchers are struggling to get their crops in and save their animals, and they need more time to assess the impacts of the proposed rule,” McGeary said.

The letter to Vilsack also points out something USDA is well aware of: Many farmers and ranchers are not online, which makes commenting difficult. “According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, more than 40% of farms do not have internet access,” the groups wrote. The Secretary touted USDA's ongoing efforts to bring broadband to rural America during President Obama's recent three-day bus tour through Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois, but this is a long-term project.

Many Menonnite and Amish farmers, who will be impacted by USDA proposal--and who have long opposed it--do not use the internet at all, and their comments must come by mail.

The current proposal comes after after USDA held public meetings over the last two years in which Vilsack and other officials were beset by outraged livestock owners and other stakeholders. The proposed rule also creates new requirements for businesses associated with livestock; veterinarians and auction barns will be required to keep records on every tagged animal for a minimum of five years.

Download USDA's proposal for Traceability For Livestock Moving Interstate [PDF]

The groups that signed the letter:

American Agriculture Movement

American Grassfed Association

Ashtabula-Lake-Geauga Counties of Ohio Farmers Union

Buckeye Quality Beef Association

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association

Cattle Producers of Washington

Citizens for Private Property Rights (MO)

Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association

Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias

The Cornucopia Institute

Dakota Resource Council (ND)

Dakota Rural Action (SD)

Empire State Family Farm Alliance (NY)

Family Farm Defenders

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance

Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund

Food and Water Watch


Idaho Rural Council

Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska

Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming

International Texas Longhorn Association

Kansas Cattlemen’s Association

Land Loss Prevention Project

Mississippi Livestock Markets Association

Missouri Farmers Union

Missouri Rural Crisis Center

National Association of Farm Animal Welfare

National Family Farm Coalition

National Farmers Organization

Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Association

North Country Sustainability Center (MA)

Northern Plains Resource Council (MT)

Oglala Sioux Livestock and Landowners Association

Organic Consumers Association

Organization for Competitive Markets

Peach Bottom Concerned Citizens (PA)

Powder River Basin Resource Council (WY)


Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

Rural Coalition/ Coalicion Rural

Rural Vermont

Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (VT)

Socially Responsible Agricultural Project

South Dakota Stockgrowers Association

Sovereignty International

Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association

Western Organization of Resource Councils

Weston A. Price Foundation

*Photo of President Obama at Whiteside County fair in Morris, Ill, by Pete Souza/White House

No comments:

Post a Comment