Thursday, May 20, 2010

Name Games with the USDA (again)

©Doreen Hannes

On May 11th, the USDA held the first of three public meetings on their "New NAIS" program "Animal Disease Traceability". The meeting began at 8am with three power point presentations. California State Veterinarian, Dr. Richard Breitmeyer gave the first presentation. This was the same presentation he gave at the mid-March NIAA (National Institute of Animal Agriculture) meeting, also held in Kansas City.

A little history is in order to understand the progression of this idea for animal traceability. In the US, the first notable plan for identifying animals was the NFAIP, along with FAIR, those being the National Farm Animal Identification Program and Farm Animal Identification and Records. Then under the Bush Administration there was the United States Animal Identification Plan, with the NAIS, National Animal Identification System hot on it's heels. Now, they have "killed" NAIS, but are moving forward with the Animal Disease Traceability plan, the ADT. The main difference here is that the USDA is going to make a rule on the ADT to prescribe the "performance standards" for traceability that the states MUST meet to engage in interstate commerce with the ADT.

Breitmeyer's presentation focused on the difficulties around tracing the contacts of tubercular (and suspect) cattle in the state of California and other states without the aid of an interoperable database covering all animals and all movements. According to his presentation, the state of California has approximately 57,500 known live cattle imports from Mexico per year. This is significant in that more than 75% of all tuberculosis in cattle is of Mexican origin. Breitmeyer lamented that when he began as a vet 25 years ago, the US had nearly eliminated TB except for in small areas of northern Michigan and northern Minnesota where the soil make up continues to keep TB in the wildlife and therefore occasionally in cattle. Breitmeyer's presentation was actually quite a good illustration of many of the failed policies of the USDA in disease control, the lack of quarantine at the borders chief among them. Of course, he is a proponent of a NAIS style system because having all that data available would make his job easier…At least on paper.

The second presentation was given by a very soft-spoken APHIS/VS (Veternary Services) representative, Dr. TJ Mayer. He stressed that the "theme" for the development of the "new" program is "collaboration". Those to be affected must be involved in the process of developing the solution for the lack of traceability that now exists--- particularly in cattle. Cattle are the primary focus for this new plan, and the methodology for bringing cattle to 95% traceability back to the point of identification in 2 business days is dependent on "collaboration" in developing the processes in our states. (Sounds familiar, doesn't it?) Mayer also illustrated that the desired traceability would be implemented gradually through partnerships of stakeholders and building upon the requirements outlined in the rule that is to be developed for criteria that states must meet for interstate commerce.

The third presentation was by Becky Brewer (Oklahoma State Vet) and the apparent lead member of the newly established "Regulatory Working Group". Dr. Brewer related the thinking of the Regulatory Working Group on the measurable outcomes of the 'traceability' standards to arrive at 95% of "all" animals traced back to the 'traceability unit' within 2 business days. Sounds just like the NAIS Business Plan, doesn't it? Brewer stated, "In government speak, "all" doesn't mean all." This may explain why the USDA kept insisting that when opponents of NAIS cited documents verbatim, we were "spreading misinformation". Evidently the English language is a linguistic and statistical anomaly in the hands and mouths of bureaucrats.

There were no question and answer sessions after the presentations. Instead every table was given a USDA facilitator and three segments of questions to answer regarding how we might achieve the desired outcome of getting animals id'd back to the 'traceability unit' within their timeframes. The tables were marked with species placards and there were at least five cattle tables, three swine, two poultry, one sheep and goat, and one "other species".

When I entered the room I noticed that Kenny Fox of R CALF USA was at a cattle table and I failed to notice the "other species" table so I sat at the sheep and goat table. There were no people at the poultry tables. The cattle tables were quite full, and all of the reporters were sitting at the 'other species' table, so I thought I would just sit at the empty sheep and goat table.

When the facilitating began, I was blessed with three USDA representatives at my table, where all the other tables only had one. I shared the table with one sheep broker from New Mexico. He deals in 20 to 30,000 head of sheep annually mostly exported to Mexico and was quite content with the Scrapie program. This program identifies breeding animals back to the flock of origin with a number assigned to the flock manager and not the land the animals are held on. It also allows for tattoos as an alternate form of official id for interstate commerce, and does not use RFID tags, although it could in the future.

The USDA representatives at my table were not particularly interested in hearing about how the failed agricultural policies have created a problem that the USDA would now like all of us to 'partner' with them to solve. They did take copious notes, and were quite proficient in 'mirroring' my statements while slightly adjusting them to fit their desired outcome more handily.

At the end of each of the three segments, a representative from each table stood and gave the 'report' from the table on that segment. The consensus of the cattle groups were that only breeders should be identified, RFID tags should be avoided, back tags should continue to be used for feeders and slaughter cows, and a NAIS styled system would not work at all.

The USDA is currently promoting the use of 'bright' tags for cattle. These are very similar to brucellosis tags in numbering and appearance. However, when the only question and answer segment of the day took place and Neil Hammerschmidt (one of the main authors of NAIS) gave most of the answers, he made it clear that the USDA still wants to 'aggressively' pursue the use of 840 tags.

The bottom line about the entire meeting is that the USDA will try to have a draft rule ready in June from the "Regulatory Working Group". This rule will define the "performance standards" that are to be met by the states to engage in interstate commerce. The USDA plans to publish this proposed rule in November or December of 2010, allow a 90-day comment period, and finalize the rule (make it law) from 8-10 months after the comment period is complete. There may be different requirements under these performance standards by species, and some potentially exempted sectors or movements. There is admitted concern from the USDA and their friends that incentives and disincentives for states must be expressed clearly and not be too "heavy handed". In other words, if a state meets compliance levels in hogs and not cattle, the hogs should not be refused access to interstate commerce.

It appears to me that we must proactively engage our state legislators to statutorily define requirements for interstate livestock movement and not allow the Departments of Agriculture the leeway to cooperate with the USDA to achieve the goals of the USDA as those goals are still NAIS oriented. The USDA will not dismantle the National Premises Repository although Hammerschmidt stated that if a state were to want to withdraw all of their participants, they could do so. Also, according to Hammerschmidt, they still want to move 'aggressively' to 840 tags as official identification along with electronic Certificates of Veterinary Inspection.

The onus of implementing the graduated Animal Disease Traceability program rests squarely on the individual states. Either the states will define those standards statutorily or the USDA will bring about their final desires incrementally through the regulatory process.==========

Monday, May 17, 2010

And by the way.....

Just in case anyone was curious, I write from time to time for News with Views and have a weekly radio show on Liberty News Radio every Saturday from 10 to 11am....In between, I do laundry, garden,dishes, cooking (although I would rather raise the food than cook it!) manage a farm, home school, bake bread, make cheese and fight for truth, freedom and fluffy pancakes.

And in my spare time, I try to figure out how technology can be used for good and not evil!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Missouri Set to Get Ohio's Issue 2---Act now!

For those in Missouri, we need to get on this!

We have only a few days left in session at Jefferson City. We have a very, very negative bill looking to go through the Senate and we have got to get active against it or be faced with a myriad of committees acting like the "Milk Board" and telling us all what we have to do, how we must do it, and when in order to remain engaged in agriculture.

SB 795 is the Omnibus Ag Act, and it is compilation of a lot of good intentions gone awry. The good bits cannot be separated from the bad bits at this point.

This bill is a serious affront to anyone who loves freedom...To be ruled by non-elected unaccountable committees is actually a Soviet system of governance, and SB 795 sets that up in agriculture quite succinctly. While there are tremendous concerns with the food supply and it's safety for consumption, as well as the attempts by the HSUS to control how animals are raised (with their real intent to STOP all animal ownership as the final goal), the oversight to be established by LAW in Missouri via SB 795 is completely unacceptable. Warm fuzzy language aside, the establishment of committees dominated by corporate ag will hasten the destruction to independent agriculture that the policies employed by the USDA for decades have caused.

The bill does the following, with all of the agency authority to promulgate rules and regulations behind it:

Sets up a committee of major agribusiness proponents to establish 'acceptable' animal care standards. This is Ohio's Issue 2, just in Missouri instead.

Sets up a committee to oversee "Urban Agriculture".

Sets up a misdirected attempt to further local food producers access to market by establishing a "sustainable" "farm to institution" initiative ---WITH the authority to promulgate rules and regulations regarding the initiative. There is concern that the committee establishing the guidelines for 'animal care' will have oversight of this program as well and the group pushing for this initiative would like the bill killed as it has been 'adulterated'.

Establishes in law the 'right to own animals' so long as they are raised in accordance with 'standards' set by the University of Missouri. This section also seriously threatens local control and private property rights.

Establishes licensing requirements for egg selling.

Establishes very complex licensing requirements for 'blasters' with a highly specific exemption list that does -NOT- clearly preclude reloaders as exempt from licensing requirements.

It also establishes horse slaughter and provides highly specific requirements for engagement in that activity. One of the requirements is that should someone purchase more than 5 pounds of horse meat, the seller must take their name address and contact information and hold that for disclosure to an interested authority.

It also does a few other things, but overall, this bill is very unfriendly to freedom and it fails to meaningfully address the real issues that cause agriculture to be a difficult field to negotiate a viable living through.

If you love freedom or good food, or farming, you need to oppose this bill and oppose it quickly. The last week of session begins on Monday the 10th and the Citizens of Missouri would be better off with this bill being killed than if it passes.

Please call the Senate and tell them to vote NO on SB795 and stop all these committees and task forces from being established in statute and ruling how independent agriculture can conduct itself. Let's fight HSUS with facts instead of letting further consolidation of agriculture markets occur because we are afraid of this bunch of Horribly Sadistic Urban Sociopaths.

Find the Senate roster at and let's fill up the answering machines and continue to call all week until they vote SB795 down!

In Liberty,


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Genetically Modified Cows Die…

Yes, you read that right. Not cows that ATE GMO's, but GMO cows themselves…….And hey, even better, they were crossed with humans!!! I know, people say that isn't actually happening, but in reality, which is inevitably stranger than fiction, it has been happening for quite awhile. The following article doesn't go into the history, just reports what has happened with some of these cattle.

Three genetically modified cows born at the AgResearch centre at Ruakura, Hamilton, were born with ovaries that grew so large they caused ruptures and killed them.

The animals being used in a study in which AgResearch scientists were seeking human fertility treatments through GM cows' milk.

AgResearch was now studying tissue from one of the three dead calves to try to find out what made the ovaries grow to the size of tennis balls rather than the usual thumbnail-size, the Weekend Herald reported today.

The newspaper obtained details of the deaths in an Official Information Act request and said it had reignited debate over the ethics of GM trials on animals.

AgResearch's applied technologies group manager, Dr Jimmy Suttie, said the deaths were not a big deal and told the newspaper they were part of the learning process for scientists.

However, GE-Free NZ spokesman Jon Carapiet told the newspaper details of the calf trial showed the animal welfare committee overseeing AgResearch's work was "miles away from the ethics and values of the community".

The calves died last year, aged six months.

They were formed when human genetic code injected into a cow cell was added to an egg from a cow's ovary and put into a cow's uterus.
It was part of an experiment to see if the genetic code would enable the cows that were produced to produce milk containing compounds that could be used as a human fertility treatment.