May 15, 2004
May 2004 -- Representatives of the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) testified in early March before the U. S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives regarding the development of a national animal identification program.
Montana Wool Growers Association President Bob Lehfeldt addressed the U.S. Senate, Subcommittee on Marketing, Inspection and Product Promotion, Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry with industry-specific comments in Washington, D.C., on March 4. A.H. "Chico" Denis III, a Texas producer and feeder as well as the first vice-president of the Texas Sheep & Goat Raisers' Association, delivered remarks to the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture, at a field hearing in Houston on March 5.
Lehfeldt and Denis expressed ASI's endorsement regarding the concept of a mandatory national livestock identification program. Both spoke about the U.S. sheep industry's national animal health program, namely the Scrapie Eradication Program, which includes a mandatory identification system. With more than 50,000 operations nationwide enrolled with premise identification and millions of ID tags distributed, the current ID program is believed to be a solid model for fitting the sheep industry into a national identification system.
Presenters also addressed the necessity to:
- utilize a premise identification that is tied to the "headquarters" of an operation;
- identify animals by lot or group when they move as a flock through the production channels; and
- review the cost and distribution of expenses for individual identification devices as well the application process.
Lehfeldt and Denis both stated the policy approved by the ASI Board of Directors at the 2004 annual meeting, and commended congressional leaders for their interest and oversight in the development of the program at the federal level.
"I commend both sheep producer leaders for sharing their concerns and comments with Congress and representing the industry on this important topic," stated ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick.
ASI is currently participating in a sheep industry working group, which anticipates providing the U.S. Department of Agriculture with a sheep-specific proposal this spring.
Also testifying was the Honorable Bill Hawks, who revealed USDA's preference for a voluntary identification system that is technology neutral. He indicated USDA already has sufficient authority.
To view all of the testimony presented at this hearing, go to: http://agriculture.senate.gov/Hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1070