WLSB debates state livestock traceability programWritten by Christy Martinez
Cheyenne – In a Sept. 21 meeting, the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) discussed two draft pieces of legislation addressing indemnity payments to livestock producers in disease events and the always-controversial topic of traceability, both on the state and national scale.
The draft bill on traceability was put together by the WLSB at the direction of the Joint Ag Committee after a similar bill was killed in committee before the 2011 session of the Wyoming Legislature.
“The bill may look very familiar to those who were paying attention last year, but there are changes in the new draft,” explained Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan during the meeting. “Essentially, this bill gives the Livestock Board the direction and authority to promulgate rules on a traceability and livestock identification program.”
Logan said the bill would be in keeping with existing identification requirements already in state statute, such as the scrapie rules in Chapter 13 and the board order for identification in the brucellosis Designated Surveillance Area in northwest Wyoming.
“This bill would give us the ability to accurately and successfully trace livestock for disease purposes,” said Logan, adding that its focus would be to provide and maintain an acceptable speed of commerce.
Shawn Madden of Torrington Livestock Markets said it’s disruption in the speed of commerce that most concerns him.
“We need to be extremely careful that we don’t put in a bunch of idealistic rules that can’t be accomplished, or that will limit the marketability of our livestock,” said Madden.
As an example he gave the proposed USDA APHIS rule, which is currently out for public and which says that an animal sold out-of-state to go on feed that doesn’t have proper identification will be unable to commingle with other livestock until it has the proper identification.
“We don’t have even close to enough pens to do that, and I don’t even know how we’d handle it,” said Madden. “We’d have to tell people they can’t buy that cow for that purpose – she’d have to go to slaughter.”
Regarding the proposed federal rule, Logan added that he sees as a major stumbling block the requirement that all breeding livestock, including cattle, sheep and swine, would have to have individual animal ID recorded on a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection at the time of sale.
“That would be very difficult to do based on the use of metal tags. Part of our intent, if this bill passes, would be to try to implement the use of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) wherever it is possible in the field,” stated Logan. “We would also provide some assistance to markets to read those tags to keep the bottlenecks out when those numbers have to be read and recorded.”
Although Logan said brands, green tags and metal vaccination tags would continue to be used in the state program, but there would be an eventual gravitation toward more use of RFID.
“As we put these rules in place in Wyoming, let’s keep in mind what’s actually doable for the marketability of the animals and disease traceability, but at the speed of commerce,” said Madden. “It has to be something that can actually be accomplished by our staff and by the market vet’s staff. It will be a problem, but don’t make it a problem that’s insurmountable.”
WLSB Director Leanne Stevenson said the state’s plan is to use a common sense approach in Wyoming, and to use a volunteer program to test strategies first.
“We’d like to figure out how to make things work so we’re not caught off-guard when the feds and other states dictate how we will do things,” she said. “We’d like to figure out what will and won’t work with livestock and market owners.”
Madden said his market would be open-minded to trials.
Jim Magagna of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association said his organization is supportive of the framework of the state program as outlined in the draft legislation, but he added the devil will be in the details of the regulations the WLSB would draft should the bill pass.
Magagna also said he’s concerned about a statement in the draft that says the rules and regulations promulgated under the act shall conform to mandatory federal laws.
“I think it’s poor legislative drafting for the state of Wyoming to put into law a commitment to comply with federal law,” he said. “We’ll urge the Joint Ag Committee to remove that sentence.”
WLSB member Donna Baldwin Hunt of Newcastle expressed her reservations about the bill, saying that she thinks it’s not in the producers’ best interest and is frivolous, because Wyoming already has voluntary programs.
“For us to support this bill to the Interim Ag Committee is not the way to go. We have a system that works, and I don’t care what kind of pilot program we have, the feds will do whatever they want, anyway,” she said, also saying she wanted more time to review the bill.
Bryce Reece of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association said that Wyoming’s sheep industry has been in support of mandatory identification for some time.
“The only reason we’ve been without scrapie is because of a mandatory ID program, and if the cattle industry isn’t interested we will move it forward and develop a program for the sheep industry here in Wyoming,” said Reece.
Although he expressed reservations about the appropriation for the bill, WLSB member Albert Sommers of Pinedale said he supports the bill in general.
“I think it’s a mistake if we don’t go forward with some voluntary program,” said Sommers. “I think our comments to APHIS should say that we don’t want any federal traceability program, but I’m afraid that if we don’t come up with a good tagging system, if something does come through, producers will be hung for the whole bill.”
“Somewhere there will be a federal rule,” said Logan of the future. “Our hope with this draft bill is that Wyoming can be ahead of the curve and have a program that will prepare our producers to be already geared up to be in compliance with any requirements for interstate movement, but we need to keep it doable in Wyoming.”
“I hope this bill will go forward so Wyoming can get itself positioned to be in the driver’s seat with a template or model program to help our producers be ready to be in compliance when the federal rule comes to pass,” said Logan.
In the end, the board passed a motion to move forward with a bill to implement a voluntary livestock identification, though they said they do have some concerns with the current bill as written.
The Joint Ag Committee will meet Sept. 26-27 in Afton to discuss and hear public comment on the draft legislation.