Pandemic Reveals USDA Is Not Buying American RFID Cattle Eartags
Billings, Mont. – R-CALF USA has learned that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted foreign shipments of millions of radio frequency identification (RFID) cattle eartags the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had purchased from foreign manufacturers. The USDA had planned to distribute the millions of foreign-made RFID eartags free-of-charge to American cattlemen to entice them to begin using the foreign-made RFID eartags on American cattle.
R-CALF USA Animal Identification Committee Chair Kenny Fox said his organization finds this news disturbing, particularly in light of the Executive Order issued by President Trump in April 2017 that directs federal agencies to “Buy American and Hire American.”
“The USDA is contributing to the weakened state of our U.S. economy by bypassing domestic supply chains, particularly domestic manufacturers, in its blind pursuit of attempting to force expensive and foreign RFID technology on America’s cattle producers,” he said.
Today, the USDA published a proposal in the Federal Register wherein APHIS would only approve RFID tags as the “official” eartag for any livestock sold or moved across state lines. The purpose of this proposal is to entirely phase out the use of any other type of eartag, and force producers to convert to the RFID technology.
The USDA purports that such a mandate does not alter current law, and the agency indicates it does not intend to change current law by amending its regulations.
However, R-CALF USA states that the USDA’s actions contradict current law that expressly allows cattle producers to choose among various identification devices, including metal eartags, as well as backtags, brands, tattoos, and group lot identification.
“This is yet another end-run around the 2013 regulation that allows producers to use a variety of identification and traceability techniques,” Fox said. He also pointed out that an agency policy such as this cannot trump existing regulations and the USDA appears to be on a fishing expedition to force the cattle industry to expend unnecessary resources to fight a proposal that the agency has no authority to implement.
In October 2019, R-CALF USA represented by Harriet Hageman of the New Civil Liberties Alliance, filed a lawsuit that successfully blocked the USDA’s first attempt to unlawfully mandate the exclusive use of RFID eartags.
“The agency is completely out of touch with the needs of America’s cattle producers who are experiencing perhaps the worst economic cost-price squeeze in history, which has been greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Fox commented.
“This is certainly not a time the USDA should be imposing significant added production costs on the U.S. cattle industry and not the time to be enriching foreign manufacturers at the expense of domestic manufacturers while the entire domestic cattle and beef supply chains are reeling from the effects of the pandemic,” he added.
Fox said his group is urging every cattle producer to submit comments to the USDA before the October 5, 2020 deadline to inform the USDA that it cannot force expensive RFID technology upon the industry without amending current law.
Interested persons can comment on the USDA’s proposal by going to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=APHIS-2020-0022-0001.
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