Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Farm and consumer organizations protest animal ID scheme

AUSTIN, Texas — Organizations representing family farmers, ranchers and consumers from across the country are fighting to protect drought-stricken livestock producers from a new costly regulatory program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) system, originally known as the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), remains a contentious issue because of the undue burdens that it will impose on livestock producers and costs that will be passed down to consumers, contributing to even higher food costs.

In a letter to the Congressional Office of Management and Budget, 63 organizations have written to urge that the new and costly program be halted in part due to the nation-wide drought and the resulting crisis faced by so many farmers and ranchers.

“This is the worst widespread drought since the 1930’s Dustbowl,” said Gilles Stockton, a Montana rancher and member of the Western Organization of Resource Councils. “As our ranchers struggle to keep the herds alive through this disaster, they cannot afford to take on new regulatory burdens.”

The letter to the OMB notes that the USDA’s fiscal analysis significantly underestimated the cost impacts of its rule to both cattle and poultry producers. The organizations contend, “while the agency claims that the costs are under $100 million annually, independent studies indicate that the costs could be three to five times that high for cattle producers alone.”

“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. “Along with severely underestimating the costs to cattle producers, the agency wholly ignored the costs that will be imposed on tens of thousands of people who own poultry, from small diversified farmers to backyard poultry enthusiasts.”

The organizations’ letter notes that costs imposed on family farmers and ranchers go beyond monetary burdens.

“Combined with the soaring cost of feed and the drought-induced lack of forage, this new regulation would drive us in the direction of even fewer producers, when what we need to maintain a secure food supply for America is more,” said Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA.
As justification for the costs, the USDA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis focused almost entirely on the benefits to the export market that will allegedly occur.

“The new regulations do nothing to improve food safety for consumers,” stated Patty Lovera of Food & Water Watch. “Instead this proposal would allow large meatpackers easier access to export markets, at the expense of U.S. livestock producers.”

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