High gas prices, drought, and feed shortages have all plagued
The USDA is pushing an animal identification program to track health issues and local farmers are arguing the overhaul of an already successful method might put them under.
Cattleman Bob Parker spends his days herding cows. But lately, he's spending just as much time corralling fellow ranchers.
"On the surface, it looks good," says Parker.
But he says an in-depth look at a new plan by the United States Department of Agriculture could put local farmers out to pasture.
Parker says, "It's not a project that's going to fly."
The project is called the National Animal Identification System. And the USDA says it will streamline information, so health officials and producers can quickly respond to any sort of animal medical outbreak in the
"The goal is, in a matter of 48 hours, know where any animal might be." says Parker.
For now, the program is voluntary at the federal level. States can decide whether to keep that status at the local farms like this one. However, USDA literature shows the program transitions to mandatory compliance by 2009, meaning premises identification, animal identification numbers and tracking records for all livestock and poultry owners.
Parker says that's time-consuming and excessive. It could also cost farmers up to $60 per head of cattle, on top of, what the government and tax payers dole out for the program.
"Legislators realize it's a disaster." says Parker.
Parker's taking the cause of small cattle farmers to the capitol. He's working with legislators and getting strong support for a less-stringent proposal that would maintain the security of local livestock, while protecting business interests. Still the USDA is moving forward and claims test runs have been successful. But, Parker thinks that's only true for big farming corporations and would force small producers like him to sell their farms.
He says, "It's a tremendous burden of time of costs and the requirements are through the roof. You'll see consolidation of business as people get out."
Parker and other opponents of the plan have traveled