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Local Input

Written by Jennifer Womack
USDA’s National Animal Identification System may be the most widely discussed, or maybe that’s the mostly widely cussed, topic in American agriculture today. It looks like Wyoming ranchers will have a chance to discuss it further when the Wyoming Livestock Board hosts a public hearing, or hearings, later this year.

There’s one point relating to NAIS on which I think we can all agree – USDA fumbled the ball when it came to implementing this program. It’s been a moving target since the word “go” leaving people who were supposed to be USDA’s partners in implementation NAIS in a state of continually changing game plans. In the countryside it’s being questioned on everything from its constitutionality to its effectiveness and on to what it’s going to cost the industry. Litigation appears to be a given in the program’s future.
 
While USDA’s intentions may have been good, their local constituents continue to feel like they’ve never really had a say in how the program should be done. Even if the plan is workable, which most I’ve talked to question, resentment in the countryside makes its implementation difficult at best. A national tracking program doesn’t have much value if a majority of producers haven’t agree to participate.

The Wyoming Livestock Board, comprised of producers just like you who have agreed to devote a substantial amount of time, is to be commended for action it took last week in agreeing to head out to the countryside and give people in Wyoming an opportunity to share their views on where the state should go from here. Maybe the consensus will be to continue with NAIS or maybe producers will lean towards a Wyoming-specific program.

Several I’ve talked to support enhancing the state’s existing brand programs and working with the tools we already have in place. It might not be a bad idea if we’re able to integrate it with the modern-day challenges and opportunities inherent in interstate and international commerce. It’s also important we ensure those using current programs to seek out value-added markets are protected.

I’d like to think every state in the nation could implement a program that works for the producers in its state. NAIS applied to a 20-head herd in the Eastern U.S. is a lot different than NAIS on a Wyoming ranch that operates over a large area often including both private and public land. My one concern in 50 “custom fit” programs is an inability to carry out tracebacks across state lines in a timely fashion, but surely that’s something that can be addressed with a little creativity.

I hope Wyoming turns out in volume with quality, proactive comments when the WLSB finalizes plans to host the hearings. This is our chance to say where we think the state should go, what works for us and how we’re going to cover any additional expenses. It’s our opportunity to make sure we have a program that ensures our ability to react to a disease like FMD while making sure it’s an approach that works for Wyoming.

-Jen