USDA Proposes Rule for Animal Disease Traceability

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has issued a proposed rule to establish general regulations for improving the traceability of U.S. livestock moving interstate when animal disease events take place. Under the proposed rule, unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate would have to be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates. The proposed rule encourages the use of low-cost technology and specifies approved forms of official identification for each species, such as metal eartags for cattle. However, recognizing the importance and prevalence of other identifications in certain regions, shipping and receiving states or tribes are permitted to agree on alternative forms of identification, such as brands or tattoos. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “We are proposing a flexible approach in which states and tribes can develop systems for tracing animals that work best for them and for producers in their jurisdiction. This approach offers great flexibility at the state and local level and addresses gaps in our disease response efforts." The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said it was pleased with the announcement and looked forward to commenting on the proposal. NPPC noted, “An effective traceability program would allow U.S. pork to compete more effectively in the international marketplace with those countries that have already implemented traceability programs.” The American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) said, “From a veterinary perspective, preventing and controlling the spread of infectious disease is paramount to protecting our nation's herds and flocks and maintaining a safe food supply. While the rule has yet to be finalized, the AVMA will continue to be an active voice for veterinarians and will work with the USDA to ensure that the final rule provides for an effective animal disease traceability system while minimizing the burden on those responsible for its implementation.” R-CALF was very critical of the proposal by saying “USDA is running roughshod over the U.S. livestock industry with its bureaucratic ‘we know better than the entire industry’ attitude. USDA officials have deceived livestock producers by pretending to seriously consider producer recommendations and then springing these unworkable and unacceptable mandates on us in its proposed rule.” USDA estimates the new system will cost approximately $14.5 million a year. Comments are due on or before Nov. 9.

No New Regulations for Agricultural Transportation – The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that it has no intention to propose new regulations governing the transport of agricultural products. After hearing from concerned farmers earlier this year, FMCSA initiated this review to make sure states don't go overboard in enforcing regulations on agricultural operators, and to ensure consistent access to exemptions for farmers. No regulations will be proposed for any new safety requirements or changes to the rules governing the transport of agricultural products, farm machinery, or farm supplies to or from a farm. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said, “We have no intention of instituting onerous regulations on the hardworking farmers who feed our country and fuel our economy. Farmers deserve to know that reasonable, common sense exemptions will continue to be consistently available to agricultural operations across the country, and that’s why we released this guidance.” FMCSA said there seemed to be differences among states in how the “for-hire” and related agricultural exceptions were being applied. DOT issued guidance to help clarify these issues:

• Interstate vs. intrastate commerce. Since the difference between the two has been determined by the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts, FMCSA has limited flexibility to provide additional guidelines. The agency has concluded that new regulatory guidance concerning the distinction between interstate and intrastate commerce is not necessary. Generally, the states and the industry have a common understanding on this point. To the extent that fact-specific questions arise, the agency will work with the states and the industry to provide a clarification for the specific scenario.

• Commercial driver's license. Federal regulations allow states to make exceptions to commercial driver's license (CDL) regulations for certain farm vehicle drivers, such as farm employees and family members, as long as their vehicles are not used by "for-hire" motor carriers. Some states have questioned whether this exemption applies to drivers who work for "crop share" or similar arrangements. FMCSA’s notice includes guidance to ensure consistent application of the exemption. After considering the public comments, the agency has determined that farmers who rent their land for a share of the crops and haul their own and the landlord’s crops to market should have access to the agricultural CDL exemptions given by the states.

• Implements of Husbandry. In a perfect world, farm vehicles would only operate on farms, while commercial trucks would operate on public roads. The reality is that farm equipment that is not designed or intended for everyday use on public roads is often used for short trips at limited speeds. This creates a gray area for classification. After considering the public comments, FMCSA has determined that most states have already adopted common sense enforcement practices that allow farmers to safely move equipment to and from their fields. In areas where farm implements are common, the enforcement community and the agricultural community have achieved a mutual understanding of which safety regulations should apply to farm equipment on their public roads.

Appointments to Deficit Reduction Committee – The congressional leadership have begun making appointments to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) appointed Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Max Baucus (D-MT) and John Kerrey (D-MA). Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) named Senators John Kyl (R-AZ), Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Rob Portman (R-OH). House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) named Congressmen Dave Camp (R-MI), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Fred Upton (R-MI). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) appointed Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and Jim Clyburn. The Committee, established by the debt ceiling agreement, is to recommend specific savings of $1.5 trillion. Both federal programs and revenues may be considered by the committee. The committee is to report to Congress by Nov. 23 and Congress needs to pass the recommendations by Dec. 23.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.