Legislators want more voices on livestock ID

US - The controversial livestock bill that would have prohibited Washington state from participating in or establishing a mandatory - or even a voluntary - animal identification system is still alive but in a very different form after having gone through major legislative surgery.
calendar icon 8 March 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
On Feb. 26, a substitute version of the bill passed out of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, buoyed by a 14-0 vote from committee members, and was sent into the Rules Committee.

In its new version, the bill calls for the formation of a Livestock Identification Advisory Committee to be made up not only of livestock species groups but also of interested parties such as Realtors, bankers and consumers.

The state's Agriculture Department would convene the committee and appoint members from specified stakeholder categories by July 1, 2007.

The group would be tasked with coming up with animal identification recommendations that would be presented to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2008.

Celeste Bishop, a goat owner in Snohomish County, said the groups supporting the bill in its original form went into the legislative session knowing they wouldn't get everything they wanted. Nevertheless, she said, she hopes the work study group will prove to be a "good stepping-stone."

"As a group formed by the Legislature, we'll have more credibility," she said. "By next year, we'll have evidence and information pertinent to this discussion that we can bring before the legislators."

Bishop also said she was heartened by the committee's 14-0 vote.

"We were very encouraged by that," she said. "No one opposed bringing all of the stakeholders to the table. I think that the committee members realize that our concerns about privacy and the effects of an animal ID system on small-scale livestock owners are valid."

For small-scale livestock owners, the biggest fear surrounding the state's participation in the National Animal Identification System is that the federal government will have undue control over their livestock.

On the other side of the fence in this controversy, the state's Dairy Federation and Cattlemen's Association had warned that the original bill would essentially "park the state veterinarian at the sidelines" in the midst of contagious-disease outbreaks, thus making an outbreak impossible to contain.

Source: Capital Press
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