Johanns identifies major concerns for cattle industry
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), a former USDA secretary, recently told the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Mid-Year conference he sees two major areas of industry concern. The first is Japan’s refusal to fully re-open its market to U.S. beef. The second is USDA’s animal disease traceability (ADT) framework – the successor to the scrapped National Animal Identification System (NAIS) – which he called an “end-around” attempt to make animal identification mandatory.
On imports, Johanns noted that in 2003, Japan imported $1.4 billion in U.S. beef. From 2004-2009, “that figure has averaged $196 million (annually). That’s less than 15 percent of what they did in 2003.” He recalled a comment he made during a Senate hearing about not allowing any Japanese cars or car parts into the U.S. until Japan reopened its market. That got him a “quick visit” from the Japanese ambassador. “I told him, what if we cut down our automobile imports to under 15 percent of current levels. That’s what his country has done to us in the beef industry. Our patience has run out.”
On livestock ID: in February, USDA scrapped NAIS, for ADT, one of whose provisions is that it will only apply to animals moving in interstate commerce. But since most cattle cross state lines at some time, Johanns noted, this component of ADT “is an end-around way of making NAIS mandatory. It’s not fair to the cattle producers, it’s not fair to beef buyers, it’s not fair to anyone in the cattle industry.”
Johanns said when he was USDA secretary, “We looked at making NAIS mandatory.” However, as he talked to cattlemen across the country, “the more I realized they wanted the choice to do it if it benefited them, or the choice not to do it. So… we didn’t make it mandatory. The new system, I believe, is a way to make it mandatory.”
– From LMA
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