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R-CALF Speaks on M-ID

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MORRISTOWN, S.D. (February 20, 2006) R-CALF USA Director of Government Relations Jess Peterson spoke to South Dakota producers at two recent events regarding the work R-CALF USA has been doing in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the U.S. cattle industry. Topics included Animal ID, Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) and Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). South Dakota Stockgrowers Association (SDSGA), an affiliate organization of R-CALF USA, hosted both meetings.

“R-CALF USA supports existing animal identification systems, but it does not support a national mandatory system,” said Peterson. “Also, R-CALF USA does not support the privatization of the Animal ID database. If the government is going to federally mandate a system, it should maintain control of the data collected, and fund it as well.

“This past year, independent cattle producers have made a great deal of progress and accomplished a key victory within Animal ID,” continued Peterson. “South Dakota Stockgrowers Director 8 Bill Kluck, along with members of the R-CALF Animal ID Committee, traveled the country attending and testifying against mandatory Animal ID.

“Their work has played a key role in blocking a sole entity from controlling a mandatory Animal ID system by means of a centralized database,” noted Peterson. “Currently, USDA is allowing multiple groups to have ID systems, and there will not be a sole entity controlling Animal ID.”

Peterson also addressed R-CALF USA’s role in FTAs, and the organization’s work with the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

“The recent CAFTA vote delivered the message that FTAs, without the support of agriculture, will be impossible to keep forcing through Congress,” said Peterson. “Since the CAFTA vote, USTR has had R-CALF USA at the table addressing the cattle producers’ concerns on upcoming FTAs in South America.

“R-CALF USA continues to deliver the message that FTAs need to have cattle and beef listed as a perishable and cyclical item,” continued Peterson. “An import-sensitive safeguard, similar to the Australian FTA, needs to be in place, along with rules of origin that prevent the trans-shipment of Brazilian and Argentinean cattle into these countries.”

“At the meeting, there were a lot of people opposed to the privatization of Animal ID and mandatory Animal ID,” said Independent Beef Association of North Dakota (I-BAND) President Patrick Becker. “Cattle producers believe we should expand existing programs such as branding and brucellosis testing.”

“Jess stated that R-CALF supported a voluntary Animal ID system, and some kinks needed worked out in it, such as accountability, costs of the program and producer liability,” said SDSGA Director 7 Mike Maher. “He pointed out how important it is that we stay involved in free trade agreements.”

“I think R-CALF has been doing an excellent job by supporting the cattle producer,” said Jim Hulm, of Timber Lake. “It was good to hear that R-CALF is proactive on the Animal ID issue. The cost is a huge concern, because it would be a financial burden on the producer and sale barn.”

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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on domestic and international trade and marketing issues. R-CALF USA, a national, non-profit organization, is dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. R-CALF USA's membership consists primarily of cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and feedlot owners. Its members - over 18,000 strong - are located in 47 states, and the organization has over 60 local and state association affiliates, from both cattle and farm organizations. Various main street businesses are associate members of R-CALF USA. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.

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