C O M M E N T S :   December 10, 2011

 
usca@uscattlemen.org
 
USCA Comments on the Proposed Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate Rule

December 9, 2011
BILLING CODE: 3410-34-P

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
9 CFR Parts 71, 77, 78, and 90

[Docket No. APHIS-2009-0091]

RIN 0579-AD24

Subject: Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate

The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) is a national association of cow-calf producers and state associations whose mission is to present an effective voice for the domestic cattle industry. USCA’s membership includes cow-calf operators, backgrounders, and feedlot operators.

Identification/Tagging Issues:

  1. The delisting of Brands as an official ID method for interstate movement.

Comment:  Brands should be retained as an official identification method for interstate movement by agreement of the shipping and receiving States and Tribes.  A new subsection providing for the recognition of brands as official identification would be accomplished by adding a new subsection (iii) to Section 90.4(a)(1) Official identification, to read: “(iii) Brands when agreed upon by bilateral or multilateral agreement or memorandum(s) of understanding between or among agreeing shipping and receiving State(s) and Tribe(s) animal health officials.” 
Maintaining brands as official identification would eliminate potential legal issues for States or Tribes where the brand is currently considered an “official” method of identification for traceability and ownership.  Also, it would clearly resolve the issue of forcing the brand, as an “official” ID method, onto States or Tribes where the brand is not used or accepted as an official identification method thus making the federal preemption argument moot.  The current recognition of brands as an official ID method is working today, even among brand and non-brand States and Tribes, so why delist it as an “official” method to accomplish the same end.  Thus, we suggest that USDA recognize brands as an official identification device or method for interstate movement where there is agreement between or among State(s) or Tribe(s) animal health officials. 

  1. Tagging cattle moved interstate direct to a receiving location, other than to an approved livestock tagging site or approved livestock facility:

Comment:  There is no option, under the proposed rule, for an owner/shipper, who lacks adequate tagging facilities or equipment, when selling direct to a buyer in another state to have the cattle tagged at an approved livestock tagging site or approved livestock facility with the owner/shipper’s tags.  Such an option should be permitted if the animals are accompanied by an owner/shipper statement for classes of cattle not required to have their individual ID recorded on the owner/shipper statement, (see section 90.1).  There is precedent for this option as USDA currently allows 840 AIN tags for USDA’s process verified and quality systems assessment programs to be tagged at the receiving location with the owner/shipper’s tags. 
Allowing producers, particularly small-size operators, to have their cattle tagged at an approved livestock tagging site or approved livestock facility after their interstate destination with their tags, would provide greater flexibility to producers moving cattle direct across state lines and allow the smooth flow of commerce between and among states. 

  1. Elimination, in Phase 2, of the newly defined “temporary” back-tag for cattle 18-months of age or older moving direct to slaughter. 

 

Comment:  The use of back-tags, as a “temporary” device for cattle 18 months of age or older moving direct to slaughter, would be phased out under the proposed ADT rule, once all cattle moving interstate are required to be tagged under Phase 2.  USDA APHIS officials have indicated that their decision to remove the back-tag option for identifying adult cattle moving interstate direct to slaughter was based on their expectation that once all cattle are identified in Phase 2, most adult animals moving direct to slaughter will already be identified with an official ear-tag.  USDA, however, presents no solid evidence to support their assumptions in this regard.  Nonetheless, all the good reasons for using the back-tag for identifying 18 months of age or older cattle going direct to slaughter, such as reduced stress on the animals, optimum speed of commerce, animal handling/welfare, worker safety, low-cost efficient tagging, etc., do not go away once Phase 2 for all cattle is implemented.  Properly applied, back-tags are as good as other ID devices or methods for tracing adult animals going direct to slaughter.  Also, since small-size cattle operations typically use livestock markets to sell their adult cattle direct to slaughter, the economic burden for requiring an ear-tag in adult animals that do not already have an official ear-tag, would be placed squarely on the backs of small production operations and livestock market operations.  Without a better justification or rationale based on disease risk for eliminating the use of the back-tag in Phase 2, USDA should permit the continued use of back-tags in identifying cattle 18 months of age or older moving interstate direct to slaughter once all cattle are subject to the program. 

  1. The proposed rule requires that tags be collected and made available to APHIS at slaughter. It does not require them to retire the tag number and record the retired tag or other ID methods for those states that would want the information.

Comment:  Before the proposed rule is finalized, APHIS must have a defined plan and agreement in place with FSIS and/or harvesting establishments relative to the collection and recording of retired tags at slaughter.  Information from tags and brands are currently being lost and, in the past, has hampered disease traceouts.  Failure to retire and record tags at slaughter could severely complicate the traceout of an animal with a duplicate ID number or a misrecorded ID number.  This problem will be exacerbated with the implementation of each phase of the proposed ADT plan.  Collection of tags and data entry at harvest will potentially require additional labor, increased funding and perhaps additional technology solutions as well as better communication between APHIS and FSIS and harvest establishments.  None of this information has been included in APHIS’ ADT plan to date, including the proposed rule.  Thus, since this aspect of the program is a key component of a “bookend” traceability approach, we urge that it be given high priority in preparing for finalization and implementation of Phase 1 of the proposed rule.
Interstate Movement with an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI)

  1. The recording of individual identification numbers on the ICVI or other approved shipping/shipper documents is not required, under the proposed rule, for sexually intact cattle or bison under 18 months of age, or steers or spayed heifers, except for sexually intact dairy cattle of any age or cattle or bison used for rodeo, exhibition, or recreational purposes. 

Comment:  USCA strongly supports exempting, under Phase 2 of the proposed rule, the recording of individual identification numbers on the ICVI or other approved owner/shipper documents for sexually intact cattle under 18 months of age or steers or spayed heifers; with the exception of sexually intact dairy cattle of any age or cattle or bison used for rodeo, exhibition or recreational purposes, which are required to be individual identified on the ICVI in Phase 1. 

  1. The use of an electronic ICVI in tracking interstate cattle movements is not required but is permitted where available. 

 

Comment:  USCA supports this recommendation. 

 

Implementation of States and Tribes Traceability Performance Standards and Traceability Evaluations:

  1. The Traceability Performance Standards, by which USDA would assess the ability of the States and Tribes to carry out the ADT program, has yet to be fully determined and are to be taken up in a separate rulemaking process.  It is, however, USDA’s current thinking that additional restrictions would be imposed on those States and Tribes failing to measure up to certain traceability performance criteria or levels of compliance.

Comment:  USDA current thinking on the Traceability Performance Standards proposes to place greater restrictions and/or additional interstate movement requirements on those States and Tribes failing to fully measure up to the standards.  It is understood that there needs to be a consistent level of performance by the States and Tribes in order to achieve successful implementation of the ADT program.  However, it seems inherently counterproductive to the overall success of the ADT plan and ultimately harmful to cattle producers and livestock markets located in non-compliant states or tribes to punish them by placing more restrictions or requirements on an already failing system. 

  1. USDA’s Traceability Performance Standards for the States and Tribes are described in the proposed rules as the Department’s current thinking thus leaving them to be more fully established in a separate rulemaking process. 

Comment:  The proposed rule should not be finalized until State and Tribal Performance Standards are established through rulemaking.  As much of the successful implementation of the proposed ADT rule is predicated on the level of performance reached by the States and Tribes in the identification and traceability of cattle moving interstate, it is inconceivable that the two can be separated or adopted independently of each other.  Also, USDA will need the information gleaned from USDA’s traceability “roadmap” exercise currently being carried out by State and Tribe animal health officials and expected to be completed in late 2011 or early 2012, before Traceability Performance Standards can be established.  Thus, we strongly recommend that USDA complete the “roadmap” exercise and rulemaking on the Traceability Performance Standards before proceeding with final publication of the ADT rule for Phase 1.

Phase 1 Assessment:

  1. Beginning one year after USDA has published a notice in the Federal Register that Phase 1 for adult cattle are is being “implemented effectively throughout the production chain and that there is a 70 percent rate of compliance with the requirements…” all cattle and bison moving interstate must be “officially” identified.  In reaching that determination, USDA intends to carry out an assessment of Phase 1 of the ADT program along with determining that there is a 70 percent rate of compliance with the requirements.  That assessment process will be initiated by a notice published in the Federal Register describing the procedures to be used in the assessment as well as its objectives.  A second notice of the availability of the Phase I assessment results then will be published in the Federal Register requesting comments from the public.  A third and final notice in the Federal Register will be published discussing the comments on the assessment and announcing the date, one year after the date of publication of the notice, of implementation of the requirements for official identification of all cattle and bison in Phase 2 of the ADT program.

Comment:  Industry stakeholders remain confused, after repeated attempts to get clarity on the issue from USDA APHIS officials, as to what the 70 percent trigger actually represents in determining compliance with the ADT requirements for the purpose of moving into Phase 2.   The Phase 1 assessment process therefore should not be based on some arbitrary compliance number, especially if that number is open to interpretation.  Rather, the process should begin after a reasonable period of time in which stakeholders and service providers are given ample opportunity to implement the ADT program and sufficient time has passed allowing for its maturity in the marketplace. 

Phase 2, the ID/traceability of all cattle moving interstate:

  1. Under the proposed rule, Phase 2 requiring the identification of all cattle moving interstate would be initiated by a notice published in the Federal Register upon completion of the Phase 1 assessment and a determination that the ADT program can be successfully implemented in all cattle.

Comment: USCA strongly opposes the implementation of the ADT requirements for “all cattle” in Phase 2 by Federal Register notice rather than through separate rulemaking.  Since we cannot know, at this point, what adaptations will be needed to Phase 1 that could dramatically affect the program for younger cattle, it is unreasonable for the Cattle Industry to accept the introduction into the ADT program of 20-plus million cattle of less than 18 months of age by a simple notice in the Federal Register.  Introducing that many cattle of a different class, presents a whole set of unique and significant considerations, such as increased complexities of identifying and tracing young cattle, the addition of huge numbers of cattle moving interstate, the potential for slowing the speed of commerce throughout the cattle production and marketing chain, managing the logistics of a multi-faceted feeder industry, the appreciably greater costs involved, disease risk associated with this group of cattle and perhaps numerous as yet unknown factors of substantive concern.  Also, APHIS has previously indicated that there will be various and numerous technical challenges involved in collecting and recording ID at slaughter for this class of cattle. 

It is for these very important reasons as well as others yet to be known, that the entry of this very large group of cattle into the ADT system be done through separate rulemaking.  Separating Phase 2 from the current proposed rule, will assure that necessary identified changes to the ADT program from Phase I can be scrutinized and adopted in a transparent process; that the cost, benefits and viability of Phase 2 can be thoroughly vetted by the industry in real time; and that all affected stakeholders have the opportunity to review and comment on this important next step in the ADT program. 

We are also deeply concerned that USDA’s cost-benefit analysis may be flawed and not adequately represent the total cost to the cattle industry of Phase 1 and most particularly of Phase 2 of the program.  Having the experience of Phase 1 may give us valuable cost-benefit information for Phase 2 that will need to be assessed and commented upon in a separate rule implementing Phase 2 of the ADT program.  Lastly, the yet to be determined Traceability Performance Standards will have significant implications for what the states will have to do within their intrastate jurisdictions in order to meet them, which in turn affects how this larger more complicated cattle group is to be introduced into the ADT system. 

We agree that under a disease risk-based approach, targeting older animals in the first phase of a risk-based animal identification/traceability program makes the most sense.  It is less clear where the currently exempted less than 18-months of age cattle rank in a risk-based approach, or even if there is a compelling reason to include all the less than 18 month of age cattle in stages or all at one time.  Given the myriad issues yet to be determined with the inclusion of young cattle in the ADT program, USCA strongly urges USDA to reconsider embarking on Phase 2 by notice of this critical class of animals into the ADT system and instead embark on a separate rulemaking for Phase 2-all cattle at the appropriate time. 

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on an issue of extreme interest and importance to the U.S. cattle industry. 

Sincerely,


Jon Wooster
President, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association

 

Established in March 2007, USCA is committed to concentrating its efforts in Washington, DC to enhance and expand the cattle industry’s voice on Capitol Hill. USCA has a full-time presence in Washington, giving cattle producers across the country a strong influence on policy development. For more information go to www.uscattlemen.org.