In a joint letter addressed to President Donald Trump and acting secretary of agriculture Michael Young, four groups are asking for the cancellation of the seven upcoming meetings the U.S. Department of Agriculture has scheduled to discuss the agency's plans to expand its Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) rule.
Specifically, the groups are asking that USDA immediately halt any further action toward expansion of the existing ADT program, cancel the public meetings scheduled for April and May and extend the comment period to allow a minimum of 120 days for producers to provide written comments on the effectiveness of the existing ADT program.
The groups raised concerns that USDA is attempting to expand the ADT program to more closely resemble the agency's previously abandoned National Animal Identification System (NAIS), stating, "USDA received a clear message from United States cattle producers that the NAIS program -- which this expanded ADT plan appears to mimic -- was not acceptable. We do not see any changes in the cost/benefit to producers, and we do not see evidence that producers' feelings towards an expanded ADT program has changed in any way."
The agency had announced the all-day meetings not even 30 days before they were scheduled to begin in April. The groups stated that the USDA meetings were hastily planned, that cattle producers were not given timely or adequate notice and that, because the meetings are scheduled during the time of year when many cattle producers are busy calving, branding, artificial inseminating and moving to summer pastures, many producers will be unable to attend.
"Requesting producers to leave their operations for a full day for poorly noticed and ill-planned meetings right in the middle of the critical spring work confirms a severe lack of understanding by USDA of the realities facing United States livestock producers," the groups said.
The groups further stated that USDA's road tour will be a "waste of time and waste of tax dollars," contrary to the presidential directive that agencies reduce both their own expenses and the regulatory burden they impose on U.S. industries. The groups also expressed concern that the hastily planned tour is being conducted before a new secretary of agriculture is even confirmed.
The groups signing the letter include the Farmers & Ranchers Freedom Alliance, R-CALF USA, South Dakota Stockgrowers Assn. and Western Organization of Resource Councils.