WLSB meeting addresses traceability and federal funding
A meeting of the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) on July 12 addressed a number of issues relevant to the animal health sector of the industry, including a system for traceability and animal identification in Wyoming.
Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan brought the question of a Wyoming traceability program in front of the board, accompanied by an opportunity for federal funds to support such a program.
Logan’s brief summary of the $20,000 USDA grant, with the potential for equal funds for the following two years, brought a number of concerns from the board.
Logan approached the board with several questions for consideration by the group, as well as a draft of the grant, primarily allocating the money for the purchase of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and several readers.
Included in his primary concerns, Logan highlighted a lack of consensus, both in the industry and on the board, about what a Wyoming livestock traceability program should look like.
“In order to get that funding, we would have to commit to doing a roadmap and commit to longer-term traceability program development,” said Logan.
Board members voiced their concerns for both Wyoming traceability and the grant.
“It will be very hard for us to start a roadmap when we have not even seen a proposed rule from APHIS,” said WLSB President Eric Barlow of Gillette. “In our way of thinking, APHIS has this backwards. They should let us see a proposed rule to give us some kind of instruction about what we should do for a roadmap.”
The APHIS rule regarding traceability was slated to be published in April, and, at this point, no such rule has been issued. According to Barlow, the lack of a rule to provide guidance would make it very difficult for the state to create any program for Wyoming traceability, and he cited that as the reason he would oppose a 2011 traceability cooperative agreement.
“I believe we are obligated to develop some kind of system to satisfy the APHIS rule,” said board member Albert Sommers of Pinedale. “We need to allow producers to voluntarily decide if they want to be a part of such a program.”
Following his comments, Sommers made a motion to not pursue a 2011 traceability cooperative agreement, which was seconded by board member Donna Baldwin Hunt of Newcastle.
Baldwin Hunt offered her comments, saying, “I am all for containing disease, and I am all for traceability, but I am not for leading our producers into an identification that doesn’t benefit them and may cause them more than the cost of tags.”
Board member Pat Cullen from Wheatland voiced concerns about stakeholder involvement, as well as future obligations. He asked for the results obtained from previous stakeholder advisory groups to be obtained.
Sommers echoed the sentiment, saying he is not opposed to a roadmap created by Wyoming livestock producers.
Producer buy-in is paramount, according to Logan, who said, “We will have to have good industry support and good board support because you just can’t do it with the amount of funding we would get in this grant. I think we are going to have to ask for an appropriation as well.”
Liz Philp of Shoshoni raised several questions related to future funds that may be available. After not applying for the USDA grant, Philp was concerned that the Wyoming legislature might not grant any funding for a traceability program. She also asked if the roadmap potentially created for the grant would have applicability in the Wyoming legislature.
Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Maganga joined the conversation, saying, “I think traceback is inevitable, and is in our producers’ best interest.”
Ultimately, while members of the WLSB voiced favor for pursuing a Wyoming traceability program, a decision was made to not submit the grant and to put the topic on a future agenda for more discussion.
“We need a background so we can discuss traceability with more information,” said Baldwin Hunt. “I would like some explanation about what is involved in traceability now and how it would help producers.”
In anticipation of an APHIS rule that would require a traceback system for interstate movement of animals, the WLSB has slated the topic for discussion at a future board meeting.
Saige Albert is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.