By DOUG SCHMITZ
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A rule that finalizes general regulations to improve the traceability of U.S. livestock moving in interstate commerce – specifically, regarding disease tracking and prevention – is now in effect, the USDA announced last week.
With the final Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) rule, which became effective March 11, “the United States now has a flexible, effective animal disease traceability system for livestock moving interstate, without undue burdens for ranchers and U.S. livestock businesses,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“The final rule meets the diverse needs of the countryside, where states and tribes can develop systems for tracking animals that work best for them and their producers, while addressing any gaps in our overall disease response efforts.”
Over the past several years, he said “the USDA has listened carefully to America’s farmers and ranchers, working collaboratively to establish a system of tools and safeguards that will help us target when and where animal diseases occur, and help us respond quickly.”
Under the rule, all covered livestock moved interstate will have to be officially identified and accompanied by an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI) or other documentation, unless they are specifically exempted.
The rule, which was published in the Federal Register Jan. 9, includes cattle/bison, equines, swine, sheep/goats, poultry and captive cervids. The regulations specify approved forms of official identification for each species, but will allow the livestock to be moved interstate with another form of identification, as agreed upon by animal health officials in the shipping and receiving states.
Vilsack said after considering the 1,618 public comments received last December, the final rule has included modifications from the proposed rule issued in August 2011, which include:
•Accepting the use of brands, tattoos and brand registration as official identification when accepted by the shipping and receiving states or tribes
•Permanently maintaining the use of back tags as an alternative to official ear tags for cattle and bison moved directly to slaughter
•Accepting movement documentation other than an ICVI for all ages and classes of cattle when accepted by the shipping and receiving states or tribes
•Clarifying that all livestock moved interstate to a custom slaughter facility are exempt from the regulations
•Exempting chicks moved interstate from a hatchery, from the official identification requirements
According to the USDA, beef cattle under 18 months of age – unless they are moved interstate for shows, exhibitions, rodeos or recreational events – are exempt from the official identification requirement in this rule.
“These specific traceability requirements for this group will be addressed in separate rulemaking, allowing APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) to work closely with industry to ensure the effective implementation of the identification requirements,” the USDA stated.
The official forms of identification are: National Uniform Ear tag System (NUES) tags; other official ID approved by the USDA; and 840 tags, which are 15-digit ear tags reserved for U.S.-born animals.
All tags after March 11, 2014, will have an official ear tag shield with either “US” or the state postal abbreviation imprinted inside the shield. All animals tagged after March 11, 2015, will need tags that have “US’ or the state postal abbreviation.
Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey announced brands are acceptable only if the state of origin and the state of destination approve, and have an agreement. Currently, Iowa has no agreements in place and no plans to develop any brand or commuter herd agreements, he said.
The rule also requires an ICVI unless the animals are moving to an approved tagging site, directly to slaughter or an approved livestock facility and then to slaughter, Northey added.
What’s more, all CVIs (Health Certificates) must be sent to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Animal Industry Bureau within seven calendar days.
Northey said species-specific guides to identifying interstate movement requirements can be found on the USDA website.
The rule also stated approved livestock facilities are required to maintain records for five years, except for poultry and swine, which requires records to be kept for two years. The USDA added official identification distribution records must be kept by an accredited veterinarian, or person or entity that distributes official identification devices for five years.
Kathy Simmons, chief veterinarian for the National Beef Cattle Assoc., said, “U.S. cattle producers are dedicated to raising healthy cattle, and the implementation of the ADT rule further reinforces the commitment by the livestock industry and government to ensuring that the United States continues to supply our country and the world with safe, high quality beef.”
But some of the more than 60 farm groups that opposed the rule last December expressed concerns about what one organization called “the costs and impracticality of the proposed ADT rule” when the August 2011 draft was published.
“Thousands of individuals, including both producers and consumers, spoke out against the burdens that the proposed rule would place on cow-calf operations, sale barns, small farmers and backyard poultry owners,” said Judith McGeary, executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance in Cameron, Texas.
“The final rule appears to address many, although not all, of their concerns. It is very encouraging to see citizen action making a significant impact.”
Mark Kastel, senior farm policy analyst for The Cornucopia Institute in Cornucopia, Wis., said, “The USDA has not done their due diligence investigating the true fiscal impact this will have on the livestock industry.
“Our concern is that the economic burden of this rulemaking, some of which is duplicative of many effective disease control programs currently utilized, will fall unfairly on family-scale farmers and ranchers.”
In addition, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman said “cattle traceability could impact market access in the future.
This is especially concerning when recognizing that of the world’s eight largest exporters, six have adopted mandatory cattle animal identification and traceability systems.
“We have worked with USDA on the animal disease traceability framework, and will continue working with the agency to implement this rule and on all issues that impact the ability of farmers and ranchers to raise healthy animals and produce safe, wholesome food.”
For more details about regulation, visit the USDA’s APHIS traceability website at www.aphis.usda.gov/traceability