• APHIS Seeks Public Comment on Use of RFID Tags as Official Identification in Cattle and Bison

    Photo credit: RFID World

    Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is soliciting public comments on a proposal wherein APHIS would only approve radio frequency identification tags as official eartags for use in interstate movement of cattle and bison that are covered under certain regulations.

    Comments are due by Oct. 5.

    From the Federal Register:

    “This change would allow rapid and accurate reading and electronic transcription of identification numbers used for interstate health certificates or testing for regulated diseases such as tuberculosis or brucellosis. Implementing RFID as the official eartag in cattle would enhance the ability of State, Federal, and private veterinarians as well as livestock producers to quickly respond to high-impact diseases currently existing in the United States, as well as foreign animal diseases that threaten the viability of the U.S. cattle industry.”

    • Beginning January 1, 2022, USDA would no longer approve vendors to use the official USDA shield in production of metal ear tags or other ear tags that do not have RFID components.

    • On January 1, 2023, RFID tags would become the only identification devices approved as an official eartag for cattle and bison pursuant to § 86.4(a)(1)(i).

    • For cattle and bison that have official USDA metal clip tags in place before January 1, 2023, APHIS would recognize the metal tag as an official identification device for the life of the animal.

    This proposed change in what is considered an official eartag would not alter the current regulations in part 86 and would not amend the classes of cattle required to have official identification under the regulations. Likewise, this notice does not change part 86; for example, the State veterinary officials in States sending and receiving cattle could agree to accept alternate forms of identification such as registered brands, tattoos and other identification methods acceptable to breed associations in lieu of an official eartag. The policy for approving tags as official identification would continue to require that tags meet safety, quality, and retention criteria. However, all approved tags applied on or after January 1, 2023 would require an RFID component for the number that could be read visually as well as electronically.

    Visit the Federal Register to learn more and comment on the proposed change.

  • Apply NOW for A 2020 Regenerate HERD Fellowship!

    REGENERATE 2020 will explore these questions, thought processes, and solutions, offering a diversity of virtual events, an abundance of accessible information, and ample opportunity for conversations to regenerate mind, body, soil, and spirit.

    American Grassfed Association, Quivira Coalition, and Holistic Management International are pleased to announce a call for applications for the 2020 REGENERATE HERD Fellowship, which provides scholarships for beginning agrarians, land stewards, and students in related fields to attend the virtual 2020 REGENERATE Conference from October 26-November 20!

    What Is The HERD Fellowship

    The REGENERATE partners support young people committed to life at the nexus of tradition and innovation, food and land, economy, and community. We believe good agriculture is rooted in holistic thinking and a lifelong commitment to learning and teaching. Attending the conference provides beginning agrarians, land stewards, and students the opportunity to learn from leaders in the field, build relationships with peers and mentors, find support for their work, and bring fresh perspectives on the future of agriculture.

    The 2020 HERD Fellowship will award a minimum of 30 full scholarships (covers conference registration fee) to beginning farmers and ranchers, land stewards, and students in related fields to attend the REGENERATE Conference.

    These scholarships will be prioritized to support individuals who come from historically underrepresented or economically low-resource communities and other marginalized identities in agriculture. We specifically encourage the application of Tribal, Latinx, Chicanx, Hispanic, Black/African American, Asian, Pacific Islander, and/or LGBTQ+ beginning ranchers, farmers, land stewards, and college students. However, qualified applicants from any background with a strong application will also be considered.

    How To Apply for A HERD Fellowship

    >> Apply for a HERD Fellowship

    Interested individuals can apply by submitting an online application or completing an interview by phone. Please complete the HERD Fellowship Phone Interview form to schedule an interview. Applications must be submitted by 11:45 pm MT on Wednesday, September 30. Applicants will be notified no later than October 5 about the status of their application.

    You may also refer a friend, apprentice, intern, or employee by completing the HERD Fellowship Recommendation Form.

    We also offer a reduced beginning agrarian, land steward, and student rate to those who are seeking a non-competitive route. Complete the Beginning Agrarian, Land Steward, and Student Inquiry Form to receive the discounted rate.

    Please share this announcement  with your networks and encourage beginning agrarians, land stewards, and students to apply!

    Thank you for helping us find good candidates for these awards.

    >> Register for Regenerate

  • AGA Board Member Greg Gunthorp Named To NACMPI

    Greg Gunthorp

    AGA Board Member, family farmer and USDA-inspected processor Greg Gunthorp.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the appointment of 10 members to the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection (NACMPI).

    “Together these 20 members represent a multitude of perspectives and bring a variety of expertise to the committee,” said Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Mindy Brashears. “Their knowledge and advice will play a key role in informing USDA’s food safety decisions to ensure the U.S. continues to have one of the safest food systems in the world.”


    AGA Board Member and Indiana Pastured Pork Producer

    Named To NACMPI

    The new NACMPI members appointed to serve two-year terms are:

    • Mr. Gregory Gunthorp, Gunthorp Farms
    • Dr. Alice Johnson, Butterball, LLC
    • Dr. Denise Perry, Lorentz Meats
    • Ms. Sarah Sorscher, Center for Science in the Public Interest
    • Ms. Teresa Schwartz, Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (ret.)

    Five previous NACMPI members’ terms were extended by one year:

    • Dr. Amilton De Mello, University of Nevada
    • Mr. Thomas Gremillion, Consumer Federation of America
    • Mr. James Jenkins, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry
    • Ms. Tina Rendon, Pilgrim’s Pride Corp.
    • Ms. Kimberly Rice, U.S. Foods

    AGA Executive Director Carrie Balkcom responds: “With the addition of Greg Gunthorp, AGA board member and independent pork producer and small processor, the 90% of the farms that make up American Animal Agriculture will finally have seat at the table. We are equally as enthusiastic about the appointment of Dr. Denise Perry, Ph.D. Denise’s role at Lorentz Meats in Minnesota will continue to speak for the small and very small processors in America. ”

    AGA Board Member Greg Gunthorp responds: “I am honored and humbled to have been appointed to the National Advisory Committee for Meat and Poultry Inspection. My family have owned and operated an on-farm USDA pork and poultry slaughter and processing operation for 16 years. The second round of appointees by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue created much better balance and diversity on this committee. A responsive USDA will represent people and not just production.

    While we are not the bulk of the production, we are the bulk of the owners. Twenty-seven plants slaughter 85+% of the beef and 40 plants slaughter ~90% of the hogs in this country. I doubt USDA needs a committee meeting to discuss their needs. Yet, 90% of establishments are small and very small plants. We have many issues that are very relevant to small and very small plants in a post-Covid world where commodity ag showed its fragility.

    I’m hopeful I can provide a valuable contribution that will allow small farmers, niche agriculture, and small and very small processors to play a larger role in the resilient food supply of the future.”

    American Grassfed Association is proud of the USDA for adding to the panel members who will speak to the interests and concerns of America’s family farmers, ranchers and small processing plant owners.

  • AGA Supports The Farm System Reform Act

    AGA Approved Supplements

    American Grassfed Association is one of 300 local, state and national advocacy organizations that sent a letter to Congress urging passage of the Farm System Reform Act (S.3221/HR.6718), introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA).

    Farm System Reform Act

    As COVID-19 exposes the exploitation and injustice in the food system, the letter recognizes that “this visionary legislation meets the scale of action necessary to transform our farming and food system in a timeline that reflects the urgency of its problems.” The letter was facilitated by the national advocacy organization Food & Water Action.

    Among other things, the Farm System Reform Act would halt the establishment of new factory farm operations (otherwise known as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs) and prohibit the expansion of existing ones. It would also provide a $100 billion voluntary buyout program for contract farmers who wish to transition away from the factory farm system.

    “Our independent family farmers and ranchers are continuing to be squeezed by large, multinational corporations that, because of their buying power and size, run roughshod over the marketplace. We need to fix the broken system – that means protecting family farmers and ranchers and holding corporate integrators responsible for the harm they are causing,” said Senator Cory Booker. “Large factory farms are harmful to rural communities, public health, and the environment and we must immediately begin to transition to a more sustainable and humane system.”

    Fair Markets for Farmers

    “The Farm System Reform Act will ensure that huge corporations no longer have a stranglehold on our food supply,” said Representative Ro Khanna. “It’s important for our farmers, the economy, the environment, and animal welfare. I’m proud to see the growing coalition of groups organizing to support the bill.”

    As the letter points out, “…The U.S. food system is dominated by factory farms that confine tens of thousands of animals in cramped, unsanitary conditions; these conditions place the safety of our food at risk, pollute our air and water, harm the welfare of animals and workers, extract wealth from rural communities, increase the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria and increase corporate control of our food.”

    This legislation will revitalize independent family farm agriculture and rural communities by:

    • Placing a moratorium on new and expanding large factory farms
    • Phasing out existing large factory farms by 2040
    • Holding corporate integrators responsible for harm caused by factory farms
    • Providing a $100 billion voluntary buyout program for contract farmers who want to transition away from factory farms
    • Strengthening the Packers & Stockyards Act to protect family farmers and ranchers
    • Restoring mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for meat, and including dairy products
    • Prohibiting USDA from labeling foreign imported meat products as “Product of USA”

    The letter calls for passage of the Farm System Reform Act and a ban on factory farms in order to benefit independent farms, rural communities, food safety, our air and water, and the welfare of animals.

    How You Can Help

    Contact your Congressional representative and tell them you support the passage of the Farm System Reform Act (S.3221/HR.6718).

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  • USDA Committee Appointments Insult America’s Family Farmers & Ranchers

    The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced the appointment of 10 new members of the 15-member National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection (NACMPI).

    NACMPI’s “Diversity” Doesn’t Represent Niche Agriculture Or Small Processors

    Though USDA claims in its release on the subject that these members, “represent a diverse group distinguished by their knowledge and interest in meat and poultry safety,” the newest members, along with members already serving on the committee, fail to represent niche agriculture, nor small or very small processing plants—adding yet another insult to America’s independent family farmers, ranchers and processors across the nation.

    What’s more: Brazilian-owned JBS, the largest meat producer in the world whose leaders have been convicted of bribing thousands of inspectors and politicians in Brazil to allow the sale of expired and rotten meat, now has a seat at USDA’s table.

    “To give seats on this committee to company representatives of a foreign corporation that has been fraught with corruption and bribery charges is just wrong on many levels,” said AGA executive director Carrie Balkcom, “The announcement of the appointees to the USDA advisory committee for meat and poultry is again a slap in the face of the farmers and ranchers that have proven time and time again that they are the backbone of American agriculture.”

    “A government that is fair, reasonable, responsible and accountable represents all producers, processors and consumers,” said AGA board member Greg Gunthorp, a Midwest independent farmer and processor. “This committee should be a diverse mixture across the whole industry.”

    Greg Gunthorp at Gunthorp Farms

    (Jenna Watson / IndyStar)

    Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., we have seen the industrial animal production system’s inability to pivot in the face of global crisis. Industrial-scale slaughterhouses swiftly emerged as coronavirus hot spots, infecting and killing workers and causing a ripple effect of harm to surrounding communities and cities throughout the U.S. Spikes in illness lead to the shutdown of processing plants, leaving store shelves empty, increased prices on meat and poultry, the killing, burial and/or composting of millions of animals .

    Meanwhile, April saw some of the industry’s highest exports of poultry to China. The current industrial-scale system is not built with the best interests of American consumers and independent farmers, ranchers and processors in mind, and the USDA’s latest committee appointment announcement further shows the agency’s willingness to ignore this reality.

    Small, independent, niche producers and processors were able to quickly react to the COVID-19 crisis, seamlessly providing food to their communities throughout the month when grocery store shelves remained bare.

    “We are the resilient portion of the U.S. food supply and an integral portion of a food and national security program going forward,” Gunthorp, an AGA board of director member and policy committee member, wrote in a recent letter shared via email with industry and AGA members. “What happened this year in our food supply should be a wake-up call that our food supply, while very efficient and productive when clicking, is very fragile. It’s in the best interest of the country to make every effort to support the resilient portion of the food supply … the domestic small processors … not the foreign, large processors.”

    This is why we need niche, small- and very small-scale producers and processors serving all USDA committees—especially NACMPI. “Local family farms and farmers stepped up to the task and, without major handouts from the government, proved that they can provide good and safe food for their neighbors and communities,” said Balkcom. “We need to have seats at this table. We need a balance of academics and practitioners at this table, and we don’t have it.”

    Do you agree? If so, share your thoughts with USDA:

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