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Dairy Talk

RSS By: Jim Dickrell, Dairy Today

Jim Dickrell is the editor of Dairy Today and is based in Monticello, Minn.

Could COOL drive National Animal ID?

Jul 24, 2008

By Jim Dickrell, editor Dairy Today

In an ironic twist, the 2008 Farm Bill’s Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements could speed the implementation of national animal identification.

Why ironic? Many of the very people who favor COOL are also the same people who oppose, almost to the point of violence, a national animal identification system.

I’ve never been a fan of COOL. On my top 10 list of priorities in assuring consumers that the food they buy is safe, I’d rank it about #20.

Nevertheless, Congress included COOL in the Farm Bill it passed earlier this summer. USDA’s goal is to publish a interim final rule on COOL by July 30, with an effective date of September 30.

Keep in mind that the Farm Bill prevents USDA from using COOL as a pretense to implement a national mandatory animal ID program. But even if it’s not mandatory, a national ID program is the next logical step.
What simpler way to identify cattle than with an electronic RFID button tag that’s linked to a registered U.S. premise? 

If anything, market forces will drive the need for a simple, cheap identification system, say both the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF)
“Anything new like this will be market-force driven,” says Colin Woodall, NCBA’s executive director of legislative affairs. Food retailers will be required to verify country of origin of the meat products they sell, and they’ll pass that requirement on to their suppliers who will pass it down the chain all the way to the farm. 
“The market place is going to drive the treatment of animals, including identification,” agrees Chris Galen, NMPF VP of communications. “We’ve always advocated animal ID, not for marketing purposes or for COOL, but to protect our infrastructure.”
Note: More than 42,000 of commercial dairy and heifer operations, some 70%, now have their premises registered for national ID. 
Imported Canadian cattle, which have been coming across the border since late November of last year, are already required to carry official Canadian brands or individual ID, including their Canadian ear tag and records to prove premise of origin. 
As of last week (July 15), retailers will have to verify they have the records to prove Canadian cattle origins. For more on the identification requirements of Canadian dairy cattle imports, click here. These rules were set last year, prior to the border opening November 19.
I’m no trade law expert. But it seems to me the Canadians could get a little uppity if U.S. domestic requirements for cattle ID to meet marketing requirements are less stringent than those for imported cattle. (Can you smell a World Trade Organization challenge coming?)

So COOL could be a blessing in disguise. If it speeds the adoption of comprehensive (if not mandatory) national ID, it might well be worth all the other hassle of meeting COOL requirements from the farm to the meat case. 
COOL nor national animal ID will prevent a major disease outbreak in this country. But national ID could certainly help contain the outbreak should it occur. 
Containment is essential. One estimate, offered by Tom McKenna with the Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratory, suggests a foot and mouth disease outbreak could cost the U.S. livestock industry $27 billion dollars. That’s roughly three-quarters of the farm-gate value of all the milk produced in this country last year. 
Anything that could limit such a disaster, even COOL, is worth it.

The Dairy Talk column is part of the Dairy Today eUpdate newsletter, which is delivered to subscribers biweekly and includes dairy market analysis, dairy nutrition information as well as the latest dairy headline news. Click here to subscribe.

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COMMENTS (8 Comments)

As a consumer, I would like to know if I'm being sold a US or imported product. COOL will do that and only affects large businesses that import products.
NAIS is an overreaching, unworkable, unnecessary and unConstitutional plan that hurts small farms who sell locally or not at all. It even includes non food animals.
NAIS is not a disease prevention plan, it is a damage control plan, because the USDA plans on allowing diseases to cross our borders in order to facilitate the "speed of commerce". USDA is protecting big business at the expense of American citizens. They should be tried for treason for selling out our people and our national security in the quest for a better bottom line.
7:55 PM Jul 24th
I am so disappointed that you support a costly tax of federal red tape on the livestock industry. The USDA says this is for disease trace back---you know that is a crock?? You of all people know the dairy industry by the USDA's own data shows a business loss of $200,000,000 annually for the disease of Johnes. Why don't they work to develop a gold plated vaccine and test to eleminate this loss from the dairy industry. Answer is that USDA is not concerned about disease---just the taxation of livestock owners. Can't you see through the political bull shrapnel?
NAIS is not about export of beef--the US imported 4.8 billion dollars worth of meat last year and exported 1.6. The US doesn't grow as much meat as consumed. No exported beef is needed at all. It is bull shrapnel! Check your numbers before leading your flock.
12:39 PM Jul 24th
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