The new rules, which require identification of livestock and poultry that crosses state lines, were developed in August of 2011, and are now in the final stages before approval.
Judith McGeary started the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) three years ago in response to NAIS. The alliance has since branched out into many other issues, but has now come back to lobbying on behalf of producers who are not happy with the new rules.
McGeary, who is also vice-chair of the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Animal Health, said the new regulations would be particularly damaging to small scale poultry producers.
"If enforced as written, it could have an incredibly devastating impact on small family farms and the literally thousands of people, probably tens of thousands, who keep a few chickens in their backyards for their own eggs," McGeary said.
FARFA is one of 38 organizations that signed a letter to the Office of Management and Budget expressing concerns with the new law. The letter challenged several parts of the new rules, especially the agencies economic projections. McGeary describes the rule as being "riddled with false assumptions."
Specifically, the letter challenged the assumption that it will only cost 18 cents per head for cattle producers to comply with the new rule if they are already using some form of official identification. McGeary cited a study from the University of North Dakota that estimated the cost of labor at $7 for working the calves, tag placement, and documentation. The North Dakota study put the overall cost of compliance at $17 to $27 per head, compared to USDA estimates of $1.68 to $4.68 per head.
"The cost of the proposed rule to the U.S. cattle industry alone is far in excess of $100 million, and there will be additional significant costs to ancillary cattle-related businesses," McGeary wrote.
Under the proposed rule, livestock moved across state will 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 Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), which opposed many provisions in the original NAIS rule, believes that the proposed new rule addresses many of the association's concerns. Last year the TSCRA listed criteria that had to be met before the association would support a disease traceability program. The criteria included a minimum of cost to the beef and dairy industries, confidentiality, and operation of the program "at the speed of commerce." The TSCRA also asked that any information gathered as part of a cattle identification program be under the control of state -- not federal -- officials.
"By and large, almost every one of those tenants was approved and made it into the preliminary rule," Eldon White, director of TSCRA, said.
The TSCRA and other groups also asked that brands, in addition to ear tags, be recognized as an official means of cattle identification. The proposed rule does not do that, but it does allow some flexibility on the issue if animal health officials on both ends of a transaction agree to ship or receive cattle that are identified with brands.
"It's not a perfect system. We tried to get a perfect system with NAIS, but that wasn't too popular," White said.
The new proposed rule is still not popular with small scale poultry producers. Susan Beckwith, who co-owns Shades of Green Farm in Bastrop with Jules Assata, said they had to stop raising chickens because of production costs.
"The USDA's animal ID rule could be the last straw for many producers who are struggling to stay in business now," she said. "Family farms are small businesses and the USDA doesn't seem to understand this. This rule undermines the ability of family-scale farmers and ranchers to earn a living.
"The USDA animal ID program runs at cross purposes to its programs for rural economic development, healthy eating and small farm development. Why are we spending taxpayer dollars to support family farms and then spending taxpayer dollars on animal ID, which will hurt so many small farmers? It doesn't make sense."
The proposed rule is slated for implementation in August, but may be delayed until after the presidential election.