R-Calf - Region VII Director Speaks in Michigan at Animal ID Forum

US - As a participant in a recent forum discussion here, R-CALF USA Region VII Director Eric Nelson addressed dozens of area cattle producers concerned about Michigan’s mandatory animal identification program, scheduled to take effect March 1, 2007. Also on hand was R-CALF USA Volunteer Doug Meiburg.
calendar icon 27 October 2006
clock icon 3 minute read
According to official literature, the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) will require that all cattle producers obtain a national premise registration number for each location where they graze cattle, and that all cattle be identified with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags before any movement from a premise. Although Michigan cattle producers will not be required to purchase a radio frequency reader, they will bear the costs associated with tags – which can run as much as $2 apiece – and an applicator, which costs $20. Additionally, youth who plan to exhibit livestock after March 1, 2007, must also identify their animals using an RFID tag. This includes any animals purchased out of state and exhibited after March 1, 2007. When an animal arrives at a slaughter plant, the RFID number is recorded in the database. The tag is then removed and destroyed.

“As far as I know, there was never any public hearing on this matter,” said Meiburg, one of the event organizers. “This was added into other legislation and slid through where no one could see it. My district representative, who’s on the state ag committee, was not consulted about this becoming law. Neither political party has a stand on this issue because they didn’t even know about it.”

Meiburg said he hosted the meeting as an effort to educate producers about this law, and with a “lively” crowd of approximately 350 on hand, he said he felt like that goal was accomplished.

“People had no idea this is as involved as it is,” he continued. “The meeting seemed to last forever. People stayed, and they stayed interested. We’re going to make sure that opposition to this law takes off statewide. Then we’re going to the State Legislature and get this stopped, I can promise you that. We’re going to get people like us in each district to beat the drums so everybody knows this is going on.”

Meiburg said that because Michigan is affected by bovine tuberculosis, there are laws in place to monitor the disease through the use of metal tags. He said state officials have decided to switch to electronic tags instead, which they have the legal authority to do.

“Where it gets gray is do they have the authority to make us cattle producers pay for it,” Meiburg questioned. “If the government moves to Phase III of the plan – which forces us to report every single movement of every animal we own – it really gets gray.”

Nelson spoke about R-CALF USA and the organization’s activities on behalf of the domestic live cattle industry. He said while the trip to Michigan was “very worthwhile,” he could not help but notice a huge dichotomy between the country people at the meeting and the government representatives. He also said he was astounded to learn that agriculture department staffers had been given ticket books so they could issue citations to producers who are noncompliant once the law takes effect.

“USDA has lost touch on so many things it would require to effectively run an Animal ID program,” said Nelson. “They are so far removed from the farm and ranch and agriculture, living in a cut-and-paste world.

“Over half the audience indicated they don’t have a computer, and this Michigan ID program requires that everybody have Internet access,” he continued. “What I saw at this meeting just highlighted the impossibility of doing something like this on a national scale. It’s a debacle.”

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