Ag Secretary Purdue is Putting the Cart before the Horse.

by Gilles Stockton | July 1, 2019

Most cattle producers have probably not paid enough attention to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s recent announcement that adult cattle in interstate commerce will be required to carry RFID tags. This includes all cattle vaccinated for brucellosis. It is going to cost you and is a step towards requiring that all cattle (including feeder calves) be nationally registered from birth to death.

This administration promised less regulation, but maybe that only means relaxed scrutiny of big corporations. When it comes to the little guy, and this ID regulation is certainly aimed at the little guy, the standards seem different.

We are told that RFID tags are needed for enhanced surveillance and response to disease outbreaks, but the Secretary does not explain how or why. The little – and free – metal tags have successfully been used to eradicate brucellosis and tuberculosis in most of America. If RFID tags are needed anywhere, they are needed in the bison and elk of Yellowstone Park. That is the source of brucellosis today and that is where our government’s failure to address the problem continues to put cattle herds at risk.

As for Tuberculosis, we would have that eradicated too, except we keep importing it from Mexico. Obviously, what is needed are more stringent protocols for cattle imported from Mexico or maybe no Mexican cattle at all. Less obviously, but needed, is medical oversight of Mexican farm workers as it has been shown that Mexican farm workers infected with the bovine form of tuberculosis have transmitted it back to cattle here in the United States. I have nothing against Mexican citizens working on ranches, feedlots, and dairies. They need the work and the cattle industry needs the help. What we could all benefit from is less politics and bluster, and instead, an enhanced system for guest workers.

We are told that the RFID tags are really needed for surveillance and response against Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), but this argument does not hold water either. If/when FMD is introduced into America, the immediate response will be to ban any movement of cloven-hoofed animals. This will be followed by intense surveillance of all livestock. Where FMD is discovered, there will be a required vaccination of all livestock in a ring around the infected herd. Whether the cattle have or don’t have RFID tags beforehand will be totally irrelevant. However, to be fair, if we are to eliminate FMD after it has been introduced, some form of identification will be needed from that point on.

I think that all of us are willing and anxious to do what is needed to protect our cattle herd from introduced diseases. What Secretary Purdue does not do is inspire confidence that USDA is holding up their end of the bargain. The budget for the Veterinary Service is being cut just when we are importing more beef from countries of South America with endemic FMD. To top it off, USDA is in the process of moving their most highly contagious disease research to Kansas, right into tornado alley where they have the strongest and largest twisters in the world.

A competent veterinary disease surveillance and response program needs a lot more than ear tags in cattle. And the ear tags are the least important part. To respond to an outbreak of FMD the first step will be to have rapid diagnosis. This is not as easy as it might seem. There are over twenty different strains of FMD, and a correct diagnosis is needed in order to respond with the proper vaccine. Keeping all of the possible vaccines ready and on hand is also an expensive and complicated endeavor.

By far the best scenario for FMD is to not import it in the first place. It is highly infectious and has an incubation period of up to fourteen days. That means that once introduced it will have spread all over the country before anyone knows there is a problem. It will also infect deer and feral pigs which will serve as a reservoir for the disease. Although FMD is not necessarily fatal to livestock and is also not harmful to people, it will stop our beef exports. As we all know, the market for cattle and beef is controlled by the beef packing cartel, who will use FMD as an excuse to collapse cattle prices. By allowing the imports of beef from countries with endemic FMD, our government has chosen to play Russian Roulette with the muzzle pointed directly at the head of America’s livestock producers.

The Secretary also promises that these RFID tags will enhance beef exports, alleging that international customers want to know where their beef comes from. But they already know where it comes from because that’s what the branded beef programs are for. With the government requiring electronic tagging this will simply give the source verification information away for free, allowing the packing cartel to undercut all of the branding programs.

In making this announcement requiring RFID tags, Secretary Perdue makes no attempt to assure us that USDA’s many relevant departments, are ready, properly staffed, and funded to prevent and respond to an FMD outbreak. Isn’t this a cart before the horse scenario? Show us how RFID tags fit into a surveillance and response system that truly protects our cattle, cattlemen would then be happy to participate.

Gilles Stockton
Stockton Ranch
Grass Range, Montana
406 428-2183

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7 Responses to Ag Secretary Purdue is Putting the Cart before the Horse.

  1. Scott Brady says:

    The key word, the word that should raise everyone’s blood pressure is “surveillance”. “Enhanced surveillance”, even! The government is wanting to monitor, track, keep their thumb on, know every move you make in your farming and ranching business. The reasons Perdue gives for the “mandatory” use of RFID ear tags is typical government BS. People, we as American citizens, farmers, ranchers, business people, and taxpayers through out this country need to wake up, read the “government speak” and know what it means. Simply put, it means CONTROL of you and me, now and for generations to come. It’s not too late if we wake up, band together in a united effort of defeating the efforts that are constantly trying to enslave us. There is a way to educate and move in a positive effort to save our freedoms.

  2. Ruth Jackson says:

    It is very interesting that the Secretary acknowledges that international customers want to know where their beef comes from. Yet the American consumer doesn’t know where their beef comes from and is totally hoodwinked by the USDA stamp on imported beef. We need Country Of Origin labeling back on our meat!

  3. Skip says:

    Just what I have been saying to everyone they’re going to blindside all of us and put us out of business!!!

  4. Dennis Raucher says:

    This tagging theory will be impeding interstate commerce by giving the USDA more ability to audit and record everyones transactions . More risk of scrutiny and it will lead to more government employees getting more power to enforce the policies they have in mind for us

  5. Katrin Kolder says:

    I left a very detailed comment and it was just erased….Giles Stockton writes an in-depth and accurate response to the new, non-publicly approved Animal Electronic ID requirement. The USDA is supporting Global meatpackers requests, know to be corrupt companies (JBS), NCBA is lobbying the US government to support global Ag interests over USA cattle and pork producers and Farm Bureau is spreading the lies to their membership as well as lobbying against independent USA ranchers and farmers. Allowing Foot and Mouth Disease countries to send meat to the USA is blatant treason. Bringing FMD to Kansas Beef Country is ridiculous, when it used to be surrounded by ocean and protected from spread by wind…remember the UK outbreak?? Brucellosis and Tuberculosis have been well controlled for almost 100 years thanks to effective and efficient collaboration between producers and government. Requiring new RFID tags will not protect the US population with no Border restrictions as in the past. People and livestock crossing from other countries known to be infected with Foot and Mouth Disease, TB and Brucellose will quickly infect the USA and lower our quality of meat. That is the desire, to pay us less, to sell USA meat overseas at huge profit and to sell cheap substandard meat to the US consumer fraudulantly labeling it as a “Product of the US” all for HUGE GLOBAL PROFIT!!! Breaking the USA rural economy and bankrupting USA meat producers. SHAME on the USDA, NCBA and Farm Bureau for selling their own country down the river!!!

  6. Trish mouat says:

    What can we do? Do we write the politicians, contact the President what do we need to do?

  7. Joel Ham says:

    Very well said.

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