The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this month that it will extend the deadline for public comments on its proposed rule for mandatory animal traceability, following a request by 49 organizations for an extension.
The new deadline is December 9, 2011. It was originally set for Nov. 7.
"We have significant concerns about the substance of the rule and appreciate the USDA providing more time for public comment, says Judith McGeary, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance executive director, and vice chair of the USDA Secretary's Advisory Committee on Animal Health.
"Our farmers are already struggling with the poor economy and terrible weather conditions in many parts of the country, and they needed additional time to provide comment to the agency about the impact this proposed rule will have."
While the UJSDA already has traceability requirements as a part of existing animal disease control programs, the proposed rule goes much further to require animal tracking even without clear and documented disease threats.
The new rule has raised significant concerns among many agricultural advocates who feel USDA is pushing a program to benefit corporate agribusiness interests rather than animal health.
"The USDA keeps saying that this is an animal health program, but it has failed to provide valid animal health reasons for it," says Bill Bullard, R-CALF USA director.
"The real push for this program comes from the giant meat packing corporations who want international standards to help their export markets."
Farm advocates say these firms should enhance current voluntary programs that compensate ranchers for the extra paperwork and costs involved with compliance.
The USDA draft rule expands what animals must be identified, including young feeder cattle, which are processed at a young age and never enter the breeding herd.
"Why any animal can become sick, there is no evidence that tracking feeder cattle will do anything to address animal disease issues in this country," says McGeary. "To the contrary, requiring the large numbers of feeder cattle to be tagged and accompanied by paperwork could actually harm our ability to respond to animal diseases by swamping the system with unnecessary stacks of paper."