Leading the Herd: Mark Eisle

February 5, 2024 - One of the top issues debated at Cattle Con 2024 was livestock traceability. During the Animal Health Committee meeting, members of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) set policy on that very topic.

Ethan Lane, Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said traceability is not a new item for the organization. But the issue of whether the associations policy book supports voluntary or mandatory traceability was the focus.  

“We've had extensive policy on traceability for years now,” said Lane. “It lays out all of the tenants we believe should be in a nationally significant traceability program. And historically, that policy hasn't taken a position on voluntary adoption by the industry or mandatory implementation of that through USDA. The tenants that have been in that policy forever are focused on making sure that producers aren't bearing the cost of those of those devices, making sure that the data is protected, making sure that the system is moving at the speed of commerce and isn't acting as a hindrance to getting those cattle moved to the supply chain.”

Lane said it’s up to the state affiliates to create the policy language for the national organization.

“These are all the tenants that have been negotiated amongst all the states for years to make sure that regardless of how this comes about, we're in a position where we can tell folks what we need out of that process,” said Lane. “The debate this week in the building was really over where we go from here.”

NCBA state affiliates like the Montana Stock Growers Association (MSGA) support a voluntary national traceability system. MSGA President John Grande said it's important more education on disease traceability occur in the countryside as well.

“How does a disease outbreak issue, if we should have something like Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), how does that differ from what we can trace back just through Bangs vaccination or varying different things,” Grande asked? “So, we need more education. We need to have that conversation. But at this point, anything mandatory, we're going to be opposed to it.”

That was the consensus of the majority of states and the NCBA policy on traceability was expanded to include language that the group supported a voluntary national traceability system.

“Where we landed was pretty close to where we started,” said Ethan Lane. “It’s still a voluntary policy. We believe this should be industry driven. We believe that those tags and readers should be paid for by funding from either the state or federal government, because we're doing a service here and protecting the economy and protecting the beef supply chain in the food supply chain.”

Lane said that USDA is moving forward with a traceability rule and the industry needs to have a position on the matter to advocate for cattle producers.

“It's coming,” said Lane. “We're seeing this rulemaking. We support the use of those electronic ID tags. We want to educate about why that's important, but we want to make sure they're paid for and we want to make sure that we're charting that course rather than being subject to a government mandate.”

For all of the policy items that came out of Cattle Con 2024 click here. 

Source: Western Ag Network