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Final rule on animal disease traceability issued by USDA

WILLMAR — Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced a final ruling on the establishment of regulations to improve the traceability of U.S. livestock moving across state lines.

By Wes Nelson

USDA Farm Service Agency

WILLMAR — Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced a final ruling on the establishment of regulations to improve the traceability of U.S. livestock moving across state lines.

Over the past several years, USDA has been working collaboratively to establish a system of tools and safeguards to help determine when and where animal diseases occur, thereby enabling animal health officials to respond faster and more effectively when a disease outbreak occurs. An effective and accurate animal disease traceability system will help reduce the number of cattle subject to investigation, which would ultimately benefit livestock producers, the livestock industry, and the government.

Under the final rule, unless specifically exempted, livestock moved across state lines would have to be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates.

After considering the public comments received, the final rule includes several differences from the proposed rule issued in August 2011. Those differences include the following:

* Accepting the use of brands, tattoos and brand registration as official identification when allowed by the shipping and receiving states.

*  Permanently maintaining the use of backtags as an alternative to official eartags for cattle and bison moved directly to slaughter.

* Accepting movement documentation, other than an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection, for all ages and classes of cattle when allowed by the shipping and receiving states.

* Clarifying that all livestock moved across state lines to a custom slaughter facility are exempt from the regulations.

* Exempted from the identification requirements are hatchery chicks moved across state lines.

Also exempted from the requirements are beef cattle under 18 months of age, unless they are moved across state lines for shows, exhibitions, rodeos or recreational events. The traceability requirements for any such cattle will be addressed by USDA under a separate rulemaking process.

For specific details regarding USDA’s animal disease traceability requirements, visit

USDA uncovers fraudulent activities at livestock markets

The USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration will continue its 18-month investigation into schemes to falsify the selling price of livestock at livestock auction markets across the nation.

As of Dec. 12, investigators had found 12 separate cases of fraud, involving seven livestock auction markets and five dealers. Those involved in the fraud have already been assessed more than $200,000 in civil penalties.

Under the Packers and Stockyards Act, livestock auction markets and individuals who buy on commission are required to keep and provide to both sellers and buyers, accurate and written invoices for any sales transactions. In its investigation, USDA officials uncovered numerous instances where buyers had manipulated the price of the livestock they purchased for their customers by producing falsified market invoices showing inflated prices, thereby increasing their profits.

The Packers and Stockyards Act is a fair trade and payment protection law that promotes fair and competitive marketing practices for the livestock, meat and poultry industries.

Farm export values up 50 percent from 2009

In its latest outlook for U.S. agricultural trade, USDA is forecasting that the value of farm exports will again increase during the 2013 fiscal year, a trend that began in 2009. According to USDA, farm exports are expected to reach $145 billion during the 2013 fiscal year. That’s an increase in value of more than 50 percent from the $96.3 billion reported during the 2009 fiscal year.

The increase in export values is largely due to higher prices for most of the U.S. agricultural commodities and products that are being exported. However, the increase in export values are also the result of efforts made by farmers, commodity organizations and U.S. companies to both increase and expand the market for U.S. agricultural goods, which USDA also has a vested interest in.

Since 2009, more than 1,000 U.S. companies and organizations — mainly small and medium-sized businesses — participated in 110 USDA-endorsed trade shows in 24 countries, resulting in a 12-month projected sales estimate of more than $4.2 billion.

The USDA has also led nearly 150 U.S. businesses on trade missions to China, Colombia, Georgia, Indonesia, Iraq, Panama, Peru, Vietnam, Russia and the Philippines.

Number of winter farmers markets up 52 percent

Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that the number of winter farmers markets listed in the National Farmers Market Directory increased by 52 percent in the last year. In 2012, the directory listed 1,864 winter markets, up from the 1,225 that were listed in 2011.

By definition, winter farmers markets are those operating at least once between November and March. Of the 7,865 farmers markets listed in USDA’s 2012 directory, roughly 24 percent are considered winter markets.

The expanded adoption of “hoop house” technology is allowing growers to produce locally grown products for longer time periods, and in colder climates. This development is considered a contributing factor in the growth of winter farmers markets.

The five states with the largest number of winter markets include: California – 284; New York – 196; Florida – 105; Maryland – 70; and Texas – 63.

Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.