ADT Comment Period Extended to July 31, 2017 | TSLN.com

ADT Comment Period Extended to July 31, 2017

Producers still have time to share their thoughts with the federal government regarding its animal identification process. The comment period for the next phase of the Animal Disease Traceability program was extended to July 31.

NAIS was developed during the 1990s and by mid-2000, USDA launched the program, with plans to have the full system in place and mandatory nationwide by January 2009.

USDA faced protests from organic farmers, independent ranchers, horse owners, property rights advocates, and more. The organized grassroots outcry, influenced then-Secretary Vilsack to withdraw the plans for NAIS in 2010. At the same time, he announced plans for a replacement program, to be called the Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) program. Some industry groups including SDSGA spent the next two years fighting to ensure that USDA kept its commitment to make ADT a reasonable, cost-effective plan.

In 2012, USDA issued the ADT rule. It covered inter-state movements only, requiring that cattle and poultry that crossed state lines were identified. Traditional, low-tech forms of ID were expressly allowed, and several exemptions that we had fought for were included.

Among other things, the final ADT rule dropped the proposed requirements for "feeder cattle" – beef cattle younger than 18 months of age. The USDA explicitly stated that it would revisit the issue of feeder cattle in the future, allowing a focused discussion on the specific problems posed by identifying younger animals in a separate discussion.

USDA posted these supporting documents which hint that the underlying agenda is to begin pushing intra-state requirements and electronic forms of identification again – in other words, a NAIS-type system READ MORE HERE: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/traceability/adt-meeting-information (see pages 9 and 10 of the handout).

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The idea of a comprehensive animal ID program may sound good. But consider this:

It's too expensive. The profit margins for most livestock producers are tiny. A NAIS-type program means not only buying RFID tags (which are more expensive than the traditional metal or plastic ones), but having the infrastructure to properly place the tags, read the tags, and manage the data.

It doesn't address animal disease. Traceability is part of being able to control and limit the spread of disease – but it does nothing to actually address disease. The real focus needs to be on prevention. If the government and industry spent even a fraction of the time that they have spent on NAIS on addressing overcrowding in feedlot, poor nutrition and the overuse of drugs, and preventing imports from countries with outbreaks, we would have far healthier animals and less risk of disease in this country. But those things cost the industry money and limit their international markets, so they'd rather focus on tagging and tracking animals.

It's about money. The real reason the industry players want electronic ID and tracking is to boost their own profits. The first time around, it was about exports to South Korea and Japan – because, with a 100% traceability program, exporters have greater leverage to claim that countries must open their borders to our products. This time, they're talking about exporting to China. Not to mention the profits to be had from selling tens of millions of electronic tags, or from managing the massive databases that would be part of the system. Multiple companies and trade organizations stand to make a lot of money from the program – at the expense of the vast majority of farmers and ranchers.

We don't need every animal to have an electronic tag in its ear and its information entered in a database. What we need are programs that support independent producers, a vibrant competitive market, and healthy animal management to prevent disease. Unfortunately, it appears that we will have to fight this battle all over again, and we need your help to succeed!

Contact the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association at 605-342-0429 or silvia@southdakotastockgrowers.org for help Comments can be submitted at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=APHIS-2017-0016-0001 writing comments.

–Edited from the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association

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