Posts Tagged USDA Not Trustworthy

NAIS ~~ Coming Soon, Mandatory Interstate Requirements


Ron DeHaven

Dr. W. Ron DeHaven is CEO of the American Veterinary Medical Assn.

USDA Sec. Vilsack announced during the morning of Feb. 5 that NAIS was over, ended, no more.

His customary emotionless announcement was fairly brief, but the detailed USDA Factsheet (Click here for factsheet) released simultaneously required seven pages of small print describing the animal ID “will do’s” and “won’t do’s”–all of which will be enforced at some future date in a to-be-determined manner.

The New York Times reported this based on information from an “unidentified USDA informant.”

At once thousands of emails flew from around the globe with nearly as much excitement outside the US as the home land.

Ranch and cattle producers smiled and nodded.

But it seems the victory may be short lived.

Now comes a lone government employee saying he cannot endorse Sec. Vilsack’s new announcement.

Dr. W. Ron DeHaven is CEO of the American Veterinary Medical Assn. The US veterinarian head count is 100,728 licensed practitioners; of which 930 are Federal Veterinarians, employed by APHIS, and 23 are Homeland Security staff veterinarians.

DeHaven has always been a verbal supporter of mandatory NAIS. He says Vilsack “… has been caving to this public resistance…”

DeHaven’s “public resistance” is the overwhelming majority of livestock producers who opposed the NAIS for a list of reasons that would choke a giraffe.

According to DeHaven, the mag-daddy of veterinarians, none of these “resistors” should have had any voice in the NAIS’s demise, and Secretary Vilsack should not have listened to them.

One gets the feeling he would like to see Vilsack go away, and himself take control.

Then again, DeHaven has shot his mouth off before, under oath. He showed his out-of-touch thinking March 11, 2009 when he testified to the House Committee on Agriculture as a hand picked presenter. He stated, “If the US is to remain competitive or grow export markets, an effective NAIS will be required.”

Evidently unknown to DeHaven, the US has been a net importer of beef for the last 21 years. Last year, the country exported $2,183,977,168 in beef and imported $4,857,454,008.

We haven’t produced enough beef to feed the nation in 21 years, yet DeHaven confidently testified that future exports are imperative.

USDA released their NAIS Fact Sheet February 5. It states:

“What is certain is that animal disease traceability will be required for animals moving in interstate commerce. . .To ensure interstate compatibility and connectivity, APHIS will work with States and Tribal Nations in establishing standards and guidelines where free or low-cost tags will be incorporated as options.”

DeHaven says the AVMA cannot endorse the Vilsack new approach:

“As I understand it, they will let each state and tribal nation more or less develop their own program? So, I’m concerned about interoperability between fifty or more different systems. Will one state be able to talk to another state as an animal moves through interstate commerce?”
DeHaven’s Audio: “Click Here

From this statement, it would appear DeHaven has never processed an interstate veterinarian animal health certificate.

Here is how it works, and has for every veterinarian’s lifetime:

  • An animal is sold into another state.
  • The state receiving the animal has “states rights” and determines the rules of entry.
  • The owner of the sold animal contacts their local veterinarian.
  • The vet has an “Entry Permit Acquisition Book” with phone numbers of every US state and tribe, provided by the USDA.
  • They call the state vet office of destination, talk to an authorized person, receive the required protocol, do what ever health tests are required for entry, complete a standard animal health certificate, receive a permit number to enter the state, and the critter is ready to travel.

This health certificate has four copies of different colors.

  • One copy goes with the hauler,
  • One stays with the local vet,
  • Two go to the state vet of origin, and
  • They forward one copy on to the receiving state vet.

The receiving state has a staff of people who check these incoming certificates every day, and may actually go and inspect the animals after arrival if they have concern.

It has always been required that a permanent ID be on each departing critter. This can be a:

  • Fire brand number,
  • Tattoo,
  • Cheap government metal ear clip,
  • OCV clip, or
  • Other approved ID.

This has been established and is already done.

No animals travel across state lines without ID and a health certificate, and nothing is new about that.

This is a system that has worked for a lifetime, and Vilsack understands the total cost to USDA is zero to continue this process.

This system has been used successfully during every major outbreak of livestock disease in our history.

Currently a huge weight of mistrust hangs over DeHaven, Vilsack, and the USDA. Vilsack says he is well aware of “. . .the downward confidence level NAIS has caused.”

The attempt to shove NAIS down the throat of every livestock producer in the U.S. will-not-be-forgotten, and the USDA may try to resurrect and rename it again–the Every Animal Traceability Tax, (EATT), or the No Cow Left Behind (NCLB)–but the results will be the same.

And another bureaucrat like DeHaven will stand up before some Congressional committee and pretend there is this huge, dangerous, animal disease mountain to climb and that without a NAIS, the food safety of the nation will be imperiled.

Hopefully, that bureaucrat will have enough sense to know we already have a successful interstate commerce system in place, and that all it takes for a producer to comply is to make a phone call to the destination state and do what the receiving state asks.

It’s that simple.

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USDA Pretends to Kill NAIS

USDA Signals NAIS is Dead

2/8/2010
Max Thornsberry

After a long-fought six-year battle, independent cattle producers have finally succeeded in stopping the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), which was an onerous plan conceived by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and promoted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), domestic and multinational ear tag companies, as well as multinational meat packers and their closely aligned trade associations.

The battle was extremely lopsided. USDA had millions of dollars of taxpayer money — over $140 million to be precise — to develop and promote NAIS and to persuade state departments of agriculture and cattle industry trade associations to recruit as many independent cattle producers as possible into the ill-fated NAIS program. According to the Web site www.usaspending.gov, the National Cattlemen’s Foundation, part of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), received over $2.1 million from the federal government in 2008 to promote NAIS.

Armed with millions of dollars and six years worth of joint government and processing-industry planning, how did NAIS get stopped?

The answer is that NAIS was stopped by the persistent, relentless pressure applied by a handful of non-conventional organizations that exclusively represented the interests of cattle farmers and ranchers, not the interests of the industrialized sectors of the U.S. beef supply chain. This was a David versus Goliath battle in which David won and the interests of independent cattle producers came out on top.

These recent victories by independent cattle producers, with far less political clout and economic power than their conventional beef industry trade association counterparts, strongly suggests that there remains a genuine reason for hope that independent cattle producers can reverse the present course of their industry — a course that is fast leading toward more and more corporate control over the U.S. cattle industry by beef packers that are capturing control over the live cattle supply chain, just as they have already captured control over both the poultry and hog supply chains.

The beef packers are now focusing their efforts on the feeding sector of the cattle industry by purchasing more and more feedlots (JBS recently purchased the nation’s largest feedlot company, Five Rivers Ranch Cattle Feeding, L.L.C.) and gaining increased control over the fed cattle market through the use of new cattle procurement tools, such as certain marketing agreements and formula-type contracts that effectively reduce the competitiveness of the fed cattle cash market.

As with every major policy issue victory, the real work begins now.

Now that NAIS has been scrapped, a new program needs to be developed to achieve improvements in the United States’ ability to quickly contain and control animal diseases. Independent cattle producers must remain directly involved in the development of this new program to ensure that it does not infringe upon their rights and privileges as did NAIS.

It is encouraging that when Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced he was going to pursue a new approach to animal disease traceability, he also announced that the U.S. must strengthen its import controls to prevent the introduction of animal diseases at our borders. This is a high priority for independent cattle producers who intrinsically understand that we cannot continue importing diseases like BSE, bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis if we desire to maintain our industry’s reputation of producing the healthiest cattle in the world — a reputation that is the U.S. cattle industry’s competitive advantage in both the domestic market and the global market.

I encourage every cattle producer to take a new look at the relatively new organizations that have amassed uncanny successes for independent cattle producers despite seemingly impossible odds. Each of the organizations that brought us to where we’re at today is not likely to lead us in a new direction. But some of these new organizations will and they need your support to continue winning their fight to restore for the U.S. cattle industry the opportunity for U.S. cattle producers to maintain independent and profitable cattle-producing businesses all across the United States.

The future of the U.S. cattle industry is in your hands and will be determined by which organization you choose to support.

The NAIS that USDA was attempting to force down the throats of independent U.S. cattle producers, utilizing our own tax dollars, would have completely changed the way cattle farmers and ranchers do business.

While obtaining a premises ID number — the first step to a nationwide NAIS — required no effort, the second and third steps in the onerous WTO-mandated system would have been costly, difficult, and, I believe, would have generated rebellion on the range. Reporting the movement of every animal, once it left its birth farm of origin, was a completely unworkable system for producers, especially those operating in our most populous cow states, where the average cowherd size is 30 to 40 mother cows.

Imagine having to get your cattle in a chute, read the tags electronically, and report the numbers to USDA every time you moved a set of calves to another pasture, your Dad’s place, or sent a group of calves to the sale barn. Not only were you going to be required to read the tags electronically, but you were going to be required to report the tag numbers to the appropriate authorities within 48 hours of that movement, or you would be out of compliance and subject to enforcement fines: A range rebellion in the making, and completely unnecessary for a first world country like the United States.

At least for the time-being, the government has listened to the people. A spike has been driven into the heart of a one-world government’s dictatorial rule.

Maybe our Constitution is not dead?

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Jolley: USDA Tries Mouth-To-Mouth On NAIS

The Associated Press misreported this morning that “The USDA Abandons Stalled Animal ID Program.” A press release issued last Friday by the USDA hints at another fate.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced that USDA will develop a new, flexible framework for animal disease traceability in the United States, and undertake several other actions to further strengthen its disease prevention and response capabilities.

Did you understand that statement? The USDA, after a 15 city listening tour last summer, has decided listening is highly overrated. They seemed to understand, acknowledging hearing “a wide variety of comments during the listening tour.”

A document on USDA web site said, “Some people were in favor of NAIS, but the vast majority of participants were highly critical of the program. Some of the concerns and criticisms raised included confidentiality, liability, cost, privacy, and religion. There were also concerns about NAIS being the wrong priority for USDA, that the system benefits only large-scale producers, and that NAIS is unnecessary because existing animal identification systems are sufficient.”

So they’re trying to re-invent the program, make it more palatable to people who signaled their willingness to stand at the farm gate, armed and dangerous, to prevent any part of a government mandated NAIS from creeping into their business.

If the USDA has trouble reading the tea leaves, let Lorrie Morgan explain it to you.

To be more specific, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “After concluding our listening tour on the National Animal Identification System in 15 cities across the country, receiving thousands of comments from the public and input from States, Tribal Nations, industry groups, and representatives for small and organic farmers, it is apparent that a new strategy for animal disease traceability is needed. I’ve decided to revise the prior policy and offer a new approach to animal disease traceability with changes that respond directly to the feedback we heard.”

What part of no don’t you understand?

The feedback he was talking about was clear, painfully so. Excruciatingly obvious. As plain as the nose on an anteater’s face.

It was “No. Not now. Not ever.”

Most every small farmer and rancher responded with the kind of “cold, dead fingers” response that would gladden the heart of Charlton Heston. Not to repeat myself but I attended two listening sessions; Jeff City and Omaha. The one lone pro-NAIS speaker in Jeff City never finished his spiel. Fearing for his safety, he fled a very hostile audience in mid-speech. The Omaha crowd wasn’t nearly as angry but their message was the same.

It was “No. Not now. Not ever.”

But an ever optimistic Vilsack announced these basic tenets of an ‘improved’ animal disease traceability program. The new plan will –

* Only apply to animals moved in interstate commerce;
* Be administered by the States and Tribal Nations to provide more flexibility;
* Encourage the use of lower-cost technology; and
* Be implemented transparently through federal regulations and the full rulemaking process.

“One of my main goals for this new approach is to build a collaborative process for shaping and implementing our framework for animal disease traceability,” said Vilsack. “We are committed to working in partnership with States, Tribal Nations and industry in the coming months to address many of the details of this framework, and giving ample opportunity for farmers and ranchers and the public to provide us with continued input through this process.”

May I call on Lorrie Morgan, again?

The USDA will convene a forum with animal health leaders for the States and Tribal Nations to initiate a dialogue about ‘possible ways of achieving the flexible, coordinated approach to animal disease traceability we envision.’ Let’s hope they invite all the stakeholders and be prepared to duck and cover.

Chuck Jolley is a free lance writer, based in Kansas City, who covers a wide range of ag industry topics for Cattlenetwork.com and Agnetwork.com.

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Opinion: Out of whack things righted, once in Blue Moon

by Richard Oswald – 1/31/2010

Blue MoonYear in and year out, things here stay pretty much the same. We still have death and taxes. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and the North Star is always perfectly positioned above the neighbor’s barn.

But on rare occasions the finer aspects of nature (and people) become a bit less predictable.

The year ended in Langdon the same way it did in the rest of North America, with a Blue Moon. (That’s a full moon at both the beginning and the end of the month.)

It was that kind of year from start to finish. We had a late spring, an unusually cool growing season, rainfall that was nearly double the normal amount, an earthquake, and a difficult harvest followed by blizzards throughout December — all stuff that only happens once in a Blue Moon.

Dump The Pork TaxOnce in a blue moon folks like me get to thinking that some of the out-of-whack things in America might somehow be getting better for our food — and the people who raise it.

The pork checkoff election

A few years back a lot of us were giving high fives when U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman took the unusual step of allowing pork producers to decide whether or not to keep the pork check-off — a mandatory fee paid into a marketing fund each time a hog is sold.

Say No To NAISA majority of pork producers voted to repeal the check-off rather than continue funding the agenda of big pork processing corporations. That’s because packers and their best buddies had camouflaged themselves to look like producers instead of end-users.

Small producers were being sold down the river by big agribusiness.

Hog growers were working under contracts with the packers that were harsh and difficult to enforce. Hog raisers couldn’t find reliable markets, and those who tried to compete on their own with the big packers were giving up and leaving the farm in droves.

The revolt against the pork checkoff was one of those blue moon moments.

Glickman answered the will of the farmer, approved a referendum on the check-off, and when a vast majority of producers voted to end it, he certified the results. The check-off tax was dead.

Unfortunately, Glickman left town with the rest of the Clinton administration before the results of the referendum could be enacted. His Bush administration successor, Anne Veneman, set the election results aside, telling producers their voluntarily-funded checkoff project had now essentially become a mandatory federal tax.

For the most part we don’t get to vote on taxes in America. We only get to vote on the people in Congress who establish them. The pork check-off was different. It was voted in by the people who would pay it, and the same people voted it out (until Sec. Veneman intervened).

Sometimes the government just doesn’t seem to hear us very well. It happens over and over.

Mad cow disease

For example, U.S. beef producers wanted to certify their own beef as BSE (Mad Cow Disease) free. It seemed a reasonable request, since we were losing business outside the U.S. because other countries feared that they were importing BSE meat. But the big packers didn’t want that label because it would have allowed small producers to gain an advantage in exports, a coveted retail market.

Even though U.S. producers such as Creekstone Farms and Gateway Beef were going to test for BSE in every animal they sold, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that only the government could test for BSE.

Of course, BSE didn’t come from U.S. beef, but from imports from Canada or Great Britain. The big meat packers didn’t want that to be accepted knowledge because beef imported from Canada and elsewhere can be a cheap source of profit.

Once in a blue moon things change, and “change” was the promise of the Obama campaign in 2008.

Things are definitely looking up, but change is easier to talk about than accomplish. When Mother Nature wants modification to the status quo she lets the chips fall where they may. When man alters things, he too often seeks a consensus of major players: titans of industry, bankers, ranking politicians, and the wealthy. They all want to be in the room together.

Guys like me are generally on the outside looking in, supplying at cost the pure basic commodities big business adulterates for profit.

National animal identification

That brings us to the National Animal Identification System.

The NAIS would require each farm animal to be tagged with a computer chip. Grassroots producers fought against mandatory animal ID throughout most of the Bush years. When President Obama was elected. there was celebration by farm groups because we thought NAIS was finally dead. Or was it?

Producers realized that NAIS ignored the real issues of food safety by putting small family farms at a disadvantage with big agribusiness. Under the NAIS proposal, a farmer with 50 cows and calves on pasture would have to tag all 100 animals.

But a feeder packer with a dozen 10,000 hog confinement buildings only had to report 12 numbers, one for each building. All that information was to be stored in a privately-operated database outside USDA with only “insiders” having access to the records.

NAIS never made sense. Virtually all food safety and pollution problems stem from imperfect processing and imported animals and food products (such as beef scraps from Uruguay), but the government was in effect saying small producers were mostly to blame. After all, NAIS was holding us to higher standards than the real food safety offenders. Animal ID was a way for corporations to shift the blame for their mistakes to farmers who had no control over what happened once their animals left the farm.

Producers geared up to fight NAIS the best they could by attending USDA listening sessions to testify against animal ID. Even when the testimony was overwhelmingly against NAIS, the USDA continued to move ahead with plans for implementation until some in Congress, like Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, were successful in cutting funding to the program.

Tester is a farmer, rancher and livestock owner who is also a U.S. Senator.

If money is the source of all evil, we definitely pulled NAIS up by the roots, persuading the House of Representatives to eliminate funds and the Senate to at least radically curtail them.

Or so we thought. Today, even with funding cut, government and corporate insiders are still talking about NAIS, waiting for their chance to bring it back to life.

I’ve heard that as our nation grows, we must all be willing to give up some of our rights for the good of all. I would agree that’s true when it comes to traffic lights or airport screening.

But food?

Big seed

These days it’s not too unusual for seed companies to sue each other. Lately a single seed company has gotten big enough to control 98 percent of the soybean seed market and 79 percent of corn.

The last time a single entity controlled that much seed was when Adam walked alone in the Garden.

That company, Monsanto, says it needs single-handed control and big profits to enable farmers to feed the hungry. Some farmers reply that all we really need to do our job is freedom of choice to buy seed without fear of economic retribution.

In a rare and uncommon turn of events, the Department of Justice has decided to investigate whether Monsanto’s unusual control of seed markets violates federal antitrust laws.

The last time the U.S. cracked down on this much corporate power was when Teddy Roosevelt played trustbuster 100 years back. That was many moons ago.

It used to be that rulemaking took place in the light of day.

For Americans, sightless regulators blinded by power have been a big problem in agriculture, banking, Wall Street, the futures markets, healthcare, energy… you name it.

But once in awhile, like now, if the problem is big enough, a little light from a Blue Moon is what is needed to start setting things right.

Richard Oswald farms and writes from his home near Langdon, Mo. His column regularly appears at www.dailyyonder.com. Reprinted with permission.

The North Platte Bulletin – Published 1/31/2010
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USDA lets more tainted meat get by

So, I have to wonder where is USDA in this story? Aren’t they on site inspecting this meat? Where are they? How many of their inspectors have been fired over this? How many Supervisors have been sent to Fairbanks Alaska for the Reindeer inspection program? Probably none! I see USDA as a major source of this problem.
-Kidron


Jolley: Agonizing Over Another Too Large & Unnecessary Recall

01/19/2010 08:49AM

On Monday, Ann Bagel Stork, an editor with Meatingplace.com, reported that Huntington Meat Packing Inc, recalled approximately 864,000 pounds of beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service discovered the problem “while conducting a Food Safety Assessment, which ultimately prompted a further investigation of establishment records. The investigation is ongoing.”

The following products, consisting of all ground beef products produced by the plant from Jan. 5, 2010, to Jan. 15, 2010, are subject to recall:

• 40-pound boxes of “Huntington Meats Ground Beef”
• 40-pound boxes of “HUNTINGTON MEAT PKG. INC. BEEF GROUND FOR FURTHER PROCESSING”
• 40-pound boxes of “BEEF BURRITO FILLING MIX”
• 10-pound boxes of “IMPERIAL MEAT CO. GROUND BEEF PATTY”
• 20-pound boxes of “IMPERIAL MEAT CO. GROUND BEEF PATTY”
• 10-pound boxes of “El Rancho MEAT & PROVISION ALL BEEF PATTIES”

While it was distressing that the first recall of the New Year only took a few days to happen, there are several other non-reported issues that should strike the industry with the same impact as a 340 pound tackle hitting a 220 pound quarterback. Or a two ton wrecking ball smacking the side of a 100 year old building. Or listening to your dentist saying, “This is going to hurt a little bit.”

Issue #1: Why did it take an FSIS Food Safety Assessment to find the problem? Where were Huntington’s people? Do they need to bring in outside resources? Is every company in the U.S. that does grinding prepared for an immediate FSA?

Issue #2: Assuming no weekend work, they recalled nine days worth of product. Whatever happened to batch production? Doing it right should mean a day’s worth pulled out of commerce, maximum.

Issue #3: Test and hold (or as Ann Wells, Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at the North American Meat Processors Association, corrected me months ago: “hold and test”) all of a sudden sounds like cheap business insurance.

The answer to Issue #1 is an FSA will find the weak link in your business. If you’re not ready for it right now, get the help you need. Right now.

The answer to Issue #2 is the same as the answer to Issue #3. Batch production/hold and test. Think holding and testing a day’s worth of production is too expensive? Huntington called back at least nine day’s worth of production instead of a single day. If you’re still a doubter, let’s go back to August 21, 1997 when the granddaddy of all recalls happened:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The nation’s largest beef recall got a whole lot larger Thursday, as Hudson Foods moved to take 25 million pounds of ground beef off the market at the behest of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Chuck Jolley is a free lance writer, based in Kansas City, who covers a wide range of ag industry topics for Cattlenetwork.com and Agnetwork.com.

http://www.cattletradercenter.com/Jolley–Agonizing-Over-Another-Too-Large—Unnecessary-Recall/2010-01-19/Article.aspx?oid=976561&fid=CTC-TOP-STORIES-2009-08-20-11-55-54&hq_e=el&hq_m=595349&hq_l=2&hq_v=3b22d15db6

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NAIS wins award for USDA’s most dastardly idea.

Note: NAIS has won the award for 2009’s most DASTARDLY USDA IDEA. In Ag Sec Vilsack’s listening sessions, designed to find some common ground of appreciation for the USDA brain child, the bribe-riddled NAIS found accumulations of increasing retch with each of 16 town hall style meetings. Livestock people increased dislike with each interpretive spin from USDA. Although the livestock press, USDA state veterinarians and USDA universities defend full-blown NAIS, livestock producers were not willing to relinquish their meager profits for the red tape of a new government enforcement program.

When NAIS was not palatable federally, the USDA split the troops and provided over $150,000,000 in incentives for each state to take NAIS as a state enforcement project. When that costly idea slammed head-on to more resistance, in court and otherwise, now the USDA troops are dividing more. NAIS surveillance is becoming mandatory for certain disease studies. To try and forget the flawed thought of NAIS, new names are now being invented like “animal ID”, “information systems”, “food safety”, “animal health emergency management”, “animal security” and a host of other invented terms, just to sell the same old NAIS enforcement.

Beyond the millions spent to swallow NAIS, now many more millions are being spent to huddle government employees around new brain schemes to sugar-coat livestock surveillance enforcements. The article below is filled with costly processes that will be paid for by livestock owners and create more government jobs.

At a unique time in the history of agriculture production, when cost of goods are increasing, profits are reducing, the USDA is working at mach-speed to increase red tape and cost of doing business. Now, here it comes again, “One Health.”

NIAA meeting examines ‘One Health’
By Drovers news source | Monday, January 04, 2010

“One Health: Implications for Animal Agriculture” is the theme of the 2010 Annual Meeting of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA), March 15-17 in Kansas City, Mo.

“One Health is a worldwide initiative focused on the interdependencies of human, animal and ecosystem health, and, with this concept comes significantly expanded roles and expectations placed on animal agriculture and professionals within animal agriculture,” states Dr. Tony Forshey, co-chair of NIAA’s Annual Meeting. “The general sessions and committee meetings at NIAA’s Annual Meeting will explore how the initiative may impact the various species and segments within production animal agriculture and animal health management.”

NIAA’s opening general session speakers will look at how the One Health initiative and strategies shift the focus from surveillance to intervention and prevention and how challenges need to be faced collectively rather than in individual silos and disciplines. The lineup of speakers will represent active members on the One Health Commission, representatives from the veterinary and human health community and representatives of animal agriculture.

NIAA’s 11 species-based and issue-based committees–which are open to NIAA members and non-members–will meet on Tuesday afternoon, March 16, and Wednesday, March 17. Issue-based committee meetings include animal care, animal health emergency management, animal health and international trade, animal production food safety and security, emerging diseases, and animal identification and information systems. Species-based committees include cattle, swine, poultry, equine, and sheep and goat. Each committee meeting features its own line-up of nationally recognized speakers.

“NIAA’s annual meeting is an ideal place for producers, animal health and management professionals, animal agriculture extension specialists and all of those involved in animal agriculture–cattle, swine, sheep, goats, poultry and equine–to gather and become better informed and involved regarding One Health,” Forshey adds.

A schedule of events for NIAA’s 2010 annual meeting, meeting registration, list of NIAA committees and hotel information are available at the NIAA Web site. Individuals are also welcome to call NIAA at (719) 538-8843 for information.

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16 Cattle and Farm Groups Urge Secretary Vilsack to Take a New Direction to Prevent Animal Disease Spread

Washington, D.C. — In a hand-delivered letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, sixteen groups called the agency’s practice of using inadequate international standards and the OTM Rule to leverage global export markets into conformity with weaker disease standards “deplorable.” The OTM Rule was implemented in 2007 and authorizes the importation into the U.S. of older Canadian cattle that have a higher-risk for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The groups state they disagree with the “uncritical deference” that Vilsack has accorded the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), which recently designated both the U.S. and Canada as ‘controlled risk’ countries for BSE. According to a letter R-CALF USA received from Vilsack , the agency believes the OIE’s designation provides assurance that measures are in place in both countries to manage ‘any possible risk of BSE in the cattle population,’ and that cattle and beef can be ‘safely traded by both nations.’

But the groups state that USDA is wrong to rely on the weaker OIE standards and that Vilsack’s stated position is inconsistent with Congress’ mandate “to protect animal health and the health and welfare of the people of the United States by preventing the introduction into or spread within the United States of BSE.” The groups urged Vilsack to carry out his congressional mandate by rescinding the OTM Rule.

The groups state also that Vilsack’s position is directly contradicted by his agency’s own risk assessment model that predicts that under the OTM Rule, the U.S. “will introduce 19 BSE-infected cattle from Canada over the course of 20 years,” and two U.S. cattle would become infected. In addition, the groups state that USDA “estimates the cost to U.S. cattle producers, for the privilege of begin exposed to a heightened risk for BSE from Canadian cattle and beef, would be over $66 million per year (or approx. $1.3 million each week), for which no c! ompensation can be obtained from anyone.”

The letter states that the OTM Rule is a human and animal health issue. “Clearly, the OTM Rule is increasing the risk of introducing BSE into the U.S. from Canada, increasing the risk of infection of BSE in both U.S. cattle and in humans, and causing tens of millions of dollars in financial losses for U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers.”

Along with R-CALF USA, the following 15 organizations joined the letter to urge Vilsack to immediately rescind the OTM Rule: Buckeye Quality Beef Association (OH), Cattle Producers of Washington, Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association, Independent Beef Association of North Dakota, Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming, Kansas Cattlemen’s Association, Kansas Farmers Union, Missouri Farmers Union, National Farmers Organization, Nebraska Farmers Union, Nevada Live Stock Association, Oregon Livestock Producers Association, Ozarks Property Rights Congress (MO), and the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association.

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FDA, FSIS TALK TRACEABILITY ~~ government agencies

from FOOD SAFETY NEWS DISCUSSION

by John Munsell ~~ 12-30-09


After implementing policies for many years which complicate, if not make impossible, tracebacks to the source, USDA/FSIS seems to indicate it is willing to consider a midstream change in its attitudes, and policies, regarding Tracebacks to the TRUE ORIGIN of contamination.The December 9 issue of Dow Jones also refers to the upcoming January USDA hearing, but no specific date has been set. One of many concerns I have is that the agency may well attempt to produce yet another prosaic Notice/Directive/Policy which multiplies words, but accomplishes nothing, the primary objective being to disingenuously and piously portray USDA as America’s ultimate public health agency. The agency’s historical refusal to traceback to the origin is readily understood.

First of all, it is pertinent to note that E.coli and Salmonella are “Enteric” bacteria, which by definition means that they emanate from within animals’ intestines, and by extension proliferate on manure-covered hides. Retail meat markets (insert Lunds/Byerlys et al), restaurants (insert Sizzlers and dozens others here), and the majority of meat processing plants (review this century’s recalls) do NOT slaughter, thus do not have animal intestines or manure-covered hides on their premises. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the vast majority of E.coli and Salmonella-laced meat is caused by sloppy kill floor dressing procedures. Well, why doesn’t USDA aggressively trace back to the slaughter plant origins? If tracebacks were successfully accomplished which reveal that the contamination ORIGINATED at a slaughter plant, a public backlash would discredit both the agency and the slaughter establishments. Why? Because successful tracebacks would reveal (1) that the big slaughter plants continue to ship tonnages of contaminated meat into commerce, bearing the official USDA Mark of Inspection; and (2) the tracebacks would reveal that the agency is asleep at the wheel at the biggest plants, by official agency design. Why do I state that? Because the current form of meat inspection, which is called Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (or HACCP) deregulated the largest slaughter facilities. Prior to HACCP, the agency promised the industry that under the HACCP protocol, (1) the agency would maintain a “Hands Off” non-involvement role, (2) the agency would no longer police the industry, but the industry would police itself, (3) the agency would disband its previous command & control authority, and (4) each plant would write its own HACCP Plan, and the agency could not tell the industry what must be in their HACCP Plans. True to its word, USDA has fully lived up to its pre-HACCP promises, but only at the deregulated largest plants. In stark contrast, the agency has used HACCP to hyper-regulate the small plants. These differences are begging for a movie or book to expose the agency’s true intentions, which are focused on justifying USDA’s semi-retirement at the biggest plants, while hagriding small plants out of existence.

Today, 88% of feedlot-fattened steers and heifers are killed at the Big 4 packer plants, which enjoy political clout and the economic wherewithal to force USDA into paralysis. The agency lives in fear, knowing that if it attempts truly meaningful enforcement actions at the big packers, the agency will be defending itself in court, and for good reason! Realizing that USDA promised to maintain a “Hands Off” non-involvement role under HACCP, that it would no longer police the industry, and would jettison its previous command-and-control authority, the agency has knowingly painted itself into a corner which prevents it from forcing changes onto non-compliant big plants. USDA fully deserves to lose such litigation, and will, so chooses to avoid litigation. So, to circumvent this delicate problem, the agency has implemented policies (some of which are not written) which prevent tracebacks to the origin.

We should not be surprised when we continually experience these ongoing outbreaks and recurring recalls, because both (1)USDA and (2)litigation have focused its sanctions against the downstream destination facilities (restaurants, retail meat markets, and further processing plants) which have unwittingly purchased meat which was previously contaminated with invisible pathogens. Until USDA is willing to Force the Source, rather than Destroying the Destination, America is virtually guaranteed ongoing outbreaks.

USDA is totally opposed to putting Bill Marler out of business, and in fact is Mr. Marler’s ultimate ally by promoting the rights of the big slaughter plants to continue producing enteric bacteria-laced meat with virtual impunity. Why does USDA appear to have experienced a sudden change in heart regarding Tracebacks? I propose that since successful tracebacks have been accomplished for melamine-laced products, spinach to a mere handful of California farms, as well as tracebacks of lettuce, peppers, peanut butter, etc, USDA’s historical inability to traceback to the slaughter plants of origin has become monumentally conspicuous in comparison. And think of the irony of this historical fact!

Although FDA has inspectors in produce plants only once every few years, the agency has successfully accomplished these tracebacks. USDA on the other hand, has inspectors in every meat plant every day, yet is strangely unable to match FDA’s success in performing tracebacks. Perhaps the Obama administration is to be credited with the USDA’s born-again metamorphosis in its alleged desire to suddenly perform tracebacks to the origin of contamination. I can guarantee everyone one thing: we had best be closely watching every statement USDA makes in its January hearing, because the agency’s past performance in this area proves that USDA fears big packer clout more than it fears public health outbreaks.

John Munsell

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Politicians Soaked by Ignorance

National Association of Farm Animal Welfare, Dec. 23, 2009 — Ag.Ed@nafaw.org
Milk ProtestAround the nation politicians are making laws and enforcements about things they know not of. Such is the case with National Animal Identification, Ohio’s Issue #2 and numerous leverages to increase taxes and clamp down on farm production.
“Every man is a fool when he is doing something he don’t know nothing about.” Will Roger’s quote was never more true than today when the halls of legislation in Washington DC are filled with elected elites that have no understanding of agriculture. To play it safe, if you don’t understand it—leave it alone.

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NAIS privacy not black and white issue

As NAIS becomes a less relevant, useless, bad USDA idea, BEEF Magazine, and other smaller circulation media, grope in the dark hunting some simple benefit, or some lack of pain to encourage NAIS implementation. A wheel barrow load of ideas have been falsely exploited wrongly promising virtues of, profitable source verification, export sales expansion, world trade compliance, useful carcass data for breeders, and even (ho ho ho) economy of application.  All of these fail to hold water, as this article reveals, the NAIS proposed data is “FOR PRIVATE USDA EYES ONLY.”  None of the above promises, virtues, claims or assumptions are of any value to US ranchers, nor ever were.  USDA has squeezed the NAIS purpose down to, “nothing more than information from a phone book,” according to USDA’s chief veterinary officer, John Clifford.
Snicker through this December 14, 2006 Iowa Farmer Today article, from their archives, resurrected from the dead, for the December 2009 issue, designed to entice livestock producers to fear not, and try to dance with NAIS one more song.  The thrust — bring in enough attorneys and it can be simplified enough to be palatable?    What!!!
Darol Dickinson, www.naisSTINKS.com

Financial Sense Editorials

NAIS privacy not black and white issue

By Gene Lucht and Jeff DeYoung, Iowa Farmer Today
Thursday, December 14, 2006 8:27 AM CST

Privacy has been a central issue in the debate over whether to make a National Animal Identification System mandatory or voluntary.

“It’s a legitimate concern,” says Doug O’Brien, a staff attorney at the Drake University Agricultural Law Center in Des Moines.

But, O’Brien, who also works at the National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas, says the issues are not black and white. Instead, they are shades of gray. Many could be addressed in the drafting of legislation that could be written to implement a national system.

“It’s fairly complicated,” O’Brien says of an ID program. “The ground is shifting on this.”

But, in the debate over a mandatory vs. a voluntary plan, privacy has been a driving factor.

John Clifford, USDA’s chief veterinary officer at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), agrees privacy has been a central issue.

“Confidentiality is definitely a concern to the private sector,” Clifford says. “We will have the premises identification database, which is nothing more than information from a phone book.

“Federal law will protect the confidential information from disclosure. We will have access to that data in the event of an occurrence.”

O’Brien says that could be addressed in a mandatory system.

There are really two confidentiality issues, he explains. The first is over whether information about animals and their owners could be gotten from the government through a Freedom of Information request. The federal Freedom of Information Act requests would appear to apply to any information gathered by the government about animals.

But, O’Brien says there are nine exemptions to the act that are stipulated in the law, and several could reasonably apply to this situation. For example, there is an exception for confidential business information. Another protects released information that would make it difficult to run a program. These items have been factors in the federal price-reporting law.

Those concerns could be addressed by writing specific statute language that would prohibit such release of information.

The second concern is the potential for government agencies to share the information gathered for a government program.

Again, that could be handled through specific language in a new ID law or it could be part of language to be included in contracts between farmers and the government, O’Brien says.

There are privacy concerns with private ownership of information in a voluntary program.

Farmers might want to make sure federal code or contracts with those private groups would ban the selling of sharing of that information with private groups that might try to use the information for their private gain.

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