Livestock ID Program Questions - USAID

February 4, 2004

To: Congressman John A. Boehner (R-OH)

Congressman Boehner,

Thank you for your response to my inquiry about the livestock identification program. However, you did not answer some of my concerns. As I understand this program, the identification will also include pets. I do not understand what pets have to do with the welfare of the food supply and what business the USDA has policing pets. You pointed out the cattle in your response to me, however, you left out the goats, sheep and horses that have been mentioned in the proposal. I have been to the grocery recently and I have not seen horse meat in the meat case. I also understand that within the next two years, according to Ann Veneman's proposal that llama's and alpaca's will be included as well as poultry. I have seen nothing mentioned as to the homestead or small farm exemption. I would like an explanation as to why camelids are included in this long term proposal and how the small farm operation is to continue to exist with all these over blown regulations being imposed on us.

Mr. Boehner, I have 13.3 acres in Northern Preble County. I have written to you about the policing of the USDA and the terrorizing they imposed on me over raising rodents for snake food 4 years ago. I'm sure you remember me. I am a widow. I live solely off what I can produce on my farm. I am behind on farm payments. I am behind on property taxes. Much of this is because of the downturn in the economy. The rest of my dilemma is due to the over policing of the bureaucracy. If the USDA can pass something as foolish as the Animal Welfare Act and continue to add clause after clause to it, how am I supposed to believe that they will not impose regulation after regulation to the National ID program to drum the small farmer out of making a meager living?

Soon, Congressman, very soon, there will be few small farmers left in the United States. Big business commercial farm operations will be the only thing that is left. The small farmers will be on the welfare dole. Please explain to me how I am to continue to homestead on my families farm with everything I attempt to raise being put under government regulation.

Looking forward to your reply,

Brenda Gibson aka Squeak

-----Original Message----- From: Congressman John Boehner 

Sent: Wednesday, February 04, 2004 3:57 PM


Subject: Re: Boehner Contact form.

February 3, 2004

Brenda Gibson

West Manchester, Ohio

Dear Brenda:

Thank you for contacting my office about animal identification proposals now being considered by the U.S. Congress. It is good to hear from you.

I have not introduced or proposed any legislation mandating animal identification for livestock. In response to the December 23rd confirmation that a single Holstein in Washington state was infected with mad cow disease or what is also referred to as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced several actions to further strengthen our Nation's BSE prevention program. These actions were also aimed at preserving confidence in the domestic marketplace and reestablishing valuable export markets overseas. The quick and decisive action taken by USDA to identify the animal, track the origins of the animal and block the introduction of infected materials into the food system shows that USDA was well prepared and trained to handle this type of incident. To date, their actions have helped maintain beef consumption levels. Recognizing that improvements and additional safeguards are needed for the future, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman announced several actions which included a USDA commitment to expedite the development of a national animal identification system.

In today's integrated livestock system, cattle move frequently and are transported to multiple locations across different states and even into Mexico and Canada. Because livestock movement is commonplace from birth until slaughter, an animal identification system is vital for tracking and identifying potentially infected material, infected animals and infected herds. In order to fully implement these changes, President Bush's 2005 budget proposes $46 million for USDA to increase surveillance and testing, and additional expenses related to the development of an animal ID system.

In nearly every circumstance or issue before Congress, I first look for ways to allow individuals and local governments to make decisions rather than the federal government. Because livestock markets are connected and because animal diseases such as mad cow or foot and mouth are highly contagious and spread rapidly, I believe an animal ID system must be implemented nationally to prevent the development of an overlapping and unworkable patchwork system. Examples of voluntary systems exist and I will closely monitor their progress as well as work with the Department of Agriculture to create a system that works for producers and allows us to improve disease response and surveillance.

Finally, I share your concerns with the ban on "downer" or non-ambulatory livestock. As Vice-Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee I am particularly interested in how the Department plans to identify and track downers if they are prohibited from slaughterhouses where USDA veterinarians and inspectors are located. I am equally concerned by the fact that such a plan was not in place before USDA made this announcement including plans on what to do with the estimated 200,000 downed cattle that will now be barred from the food supply. Be assured that as USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implement new regulations I will work to ensure that these actions are guided by scientific evidence and do not burden producers with unintended consequences.

Again, thank you for writing to me with your concerns. Please continue to keep me informed of the issues that are important to you.



John A. Boehner