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RMFU urges ‘producer-friendly’ animal ID system

DENVER– Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) Board Member Ken Macy, Pine Bluffs, Wyo., urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to adopt an animal identification system that is not overly costly or burdensome for producers. His suggestions were presented Aug. 10, in Greeley, Colo., at a USDA listening session on a proposed national animal identification program.

“I urged USDA to ensure that producers are not bearing the brunt for a national animal identification system,” Macy said. “In addition, I and other producers attending the hearing wanted to make sure that we are not left liable when meat is found to have E.coli or some other problem that is the responsibility of the processor, wholesaler or retailer.”

Shortly following the announcement late last December that a cull cow in the United States had been confirmed positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease, USDA announced that it would start the process to implement a national identification program. The first step in this process is getting feedback from the countryside through a series of listening sessions now being held throughout the United States. “A national ID system is important for tracking and reducing damage from diseases such as BSE, but it also is a key tool for guarding against bioterrorism,” Macy noted.

In addition to the issue of cost and liability, Macy, along with others, told USDA that it is difficult for some producers to provide an exact date of birth on their animals. He also said that the ID system should have only information necessary to control disease and to document an animal’s country-of-origin.

“Other information, such as vaccinations and feeding, are the personal property of the producer. Those of us selling into specialty meat markets receive a premium for this information. I would not want to give it away,” Macy said.

Also included in Macy’s testimony is the assertion that “premise” should be defined as a single producer and not include multiple physical locations where a single producer keeps animals. He believes the premise or identification system should include only the name, address & phone contact for the individual producer.

Regarding the proposed identification system’s interface with country-of-origin labeling, Macy said that one of USDA’s stated goals to implementing a national animal identification system is “to provide information for mandatory country-of-origin labeling.”

“RMFU commends USDA for holding these listening sessions to acquire input directly from producers,” Macy said. “We encourage USDA to use these suggestions in the pilot projects which are starting soon. This will give us a useful program that does not put all the burden on producers.”

Macy also noted that it will take time to implement the final program, particularly given the regional and species differences.