Below are summaries and status reports (as of Feb. 21, 2017) of some livestock bills that we have been working on or closely following.
HB 2018 /SB 5750 – Concerning Livestock Inspection: The House and Senate versions are identical, and both passed out of policy committees last week. The bills are a compromise “first step” to balance income and expenses by increasing fees for brand inspection services. The brand program is 100 percent fee for service, and revenues have not kept pace with expenses. The Department of Agriculture originally asked for an increase to $42.50 per hour for inspector services. The industry suggested that a combination of efficiencies and some fee increases could close the gap and countered with a $27.50 per hour fee on inspection services, which is the amount in both bills. It is clear the WSDA brand program will need additional changes as the cost of a state employee to drive out and inspect cattle is growing prohibitively expensive. (Reminder: dairy farmers can use the electronic cattle transaction reporting system, which costs much less to use. To sign up, go here.)
SB 5793 – Assessments on Cattle: The bill increases the State Beef Commission check-off by $1.00 on cattle, except for calves with a green tag (bull calves and freemartins under 30 days old). This is the same bill as last year. Dairy farmers have expressed strong opposition to any increase on bull calves. The bill does not raise fees on green tagged calves. The bill passed the Senate Agriculture Committee last week and is now in Senate Rules awaiting possible floor action.
SB 5196 – Cattle Feedlots, Odors and Dust: The bill would include cattle feedlots implementing best management practices within the statutory exemption for odor or fugitive dust caused by agricultural activity. The Cattle Feeders asked for this bill due to concerns that Ecology staff in the Spokane office were backing away from a long-standing air quality program the cattle feedlots have participated in. This bill would provide a statutory exemption for the 1996 Cattle Feeders air quality management program that has been operating under an “agreement” with Ecology. SB 5196 passed the Senate Ag Committee last week and now awaits possible floor action in the Senate Rules Committee.
Washington State Dairy Federation recommends immediate action to avoid fines.
WSDA is moving toward enforcement and penalties for failure to report the change of ownership of cattle.
Fines could total hundreds or thousands of dollars.
When cattle ownership changes, use a reporting option listed below.
Recent changes to state law have impacted the reporting process for the sale, gift, or bartering of cattle from dairy farms. However, lack of use may imperil dairy-requested alternative systems.
Current law requires brand inspections when cattle ownership changes. Two alternative programs are available exclusively to licensed dairies.
- Brand Inspection – This traditional method can be used for any change in livestock ownership. Because of the costs and time necessary for the inspection, this option may not work for all dairy farms.
- Electronic Cattle Transaction Reporting – The first alternative to a livestock inspection is the ECTR program. This system allows dairy producers the option of reporting private cattle transactions via the internet. This program is available for all ownership transfers of individually identified dairy cattle except steers.
- Green Tags – A second alternative to a livestock inspection is the green tag program, which is for unbranded bull calves or freemartins less than 30 days old that are not being shipped out of state or sold at a public market. Producers simply need to purchase green tags from WSDA, apply the tags to the calves, and put the 9-digit green tag number on the Bill of Sale.
- Penalties – If you don’t use one of these three options, you will face penalties imposed by the Washington State Department of Agriculture. The fines and court fees range from $205 to $513. WSDA has the discretion to assess the fees on a per head or per transaction basis. Not using brand inspections or either of the alternatives will result in large fines.
- Need for Accurate Traceability – If we do not have an adequate animal ID system, diseases cannot be traced and markets will be closed to our products. The one case of BSE in 2003 shut down exports for 10 years. An effective traceability system costs money, but a disease outbreak without traceability will cost producers exponentially more. 10,000,000 sheep and cattle were destroyed as a result of the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the United Kingdom. A strong traceability system protects our dairies from similar threats.
- Options May Go Away – ECTR and green tags were created as options for dairy producers, who said in surveys that they would use a less costly system as opposed to brand inspections. If ECTR and green tags are not used immediately, those programs may go away, leaving us with only brand inspections and costly penalties.
For more information, see the resources below: