BILLINGS, Mont., April 21, 2023 – In comments submitted this week by R-CALF USA to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regarding the agency’s proposed rule to require adult cattle shipped across state lines to be affixed with electronic radio frequency identification (RFID or EID) eartags, the ranch group said no.
In its 13-page comments, the ranch group argues the proposed rule’s stated propose of enhancing the ability of animal health officials to quickly respond to disease outbreaks could not be achieved by the proposed rule because it only requires the participation of 11% of the nation’s cattle herd while the agency has repeatedly stated that a minimum participation level of 70% would be needed to achieve rapid and effective disease traceback capabilities.
The ranch group stated the agency’s omission of any scientific analysis explaining why an 11% participation rate was sufficient when the agency has repeatedly said at least 70% was needed renders the proposed rule arbitrary and capricious.
The comments also point out that the proposed rule does not even attempt to address the principal problems the agency has identified as impeding rapid disease traceback, primarily the agency’s failure to digitalize veterinary certificates and other movement records that would continue to be completed on paper under the proposed rule. The ranch group urged the USDA to focus on transitioning veterinary certificates and other movement records to an electronic format rather than attempt to impose a costly RFID requirement on independent cattlemen.
The ranch group hit hard at the proposed rule’s cost on individual ranchers and cites cow/calf financial data from the USDA and the University of Nebraska – Lincoln to conclude:
The USDA can neither rationalize nor justify forcing cattle producers to add the high costs of EID eartags to their cost of production when the contemporary marketplace, as discussed above for many cattle producers, provides no opportunity to recover even their preexisting costs of production. Given the dire financial circumstances faced by untold numbers of U.S. cattle producers caused by the industry’s prolonged lack of profitability, the proposed rule would be expected to accelerate the ongoing exodus of U.S. cattle ranchers, thus fostering further industry consolidation and concentration.
Also in its comments, the ranch group states the proposed rule threatens national security given the group’s understanding that the electronic chips inside the RFID eartags are manufactured in China under the control of the Chinese Communist Party.
Further, the comments assert the proposed rule violates the U.S. Constitution because at least two states, Wyoming and South Dakota, have already passed statutes authorizing identification devices other than RFID eartags (Tenth Amendment), the proposed rule constitutes a taking (Fifth Amendment), and the proposed rule effectively seizes the value-added property of independent cattle producers without compensation (Fourth Amendment).
The comments also assert the proposed rule constitutes an insurance policy benefiting multinational beef packers with the premium paid for by independent cattle producers.
In its conclusion, R-CALF USA urges the USDA to immediately withdraw the proposed rule.