Some farmers across Texas are crying victory. They helped postpone a plan by the state and federal government to identify and register livestock and poultry.
On Thursday, the Texas Animal Health Commission listened to concerns from more than 100 consumers and owners of poultry and livestock who spoke out against a proposed Premise Identification program. It requires anyone with livestock or poultry to register with the state and pay fees. Anyone who doesn't faces fines and criminal penalties.
One farmer said the program was invasive. "I'm here to defend my grandchildren and everybody else's grandchildren who see this as another ripping off of their rights and the privacy of our own backyards to raise a goat or two or to have a couple of chickens back there. Those of you who are in favor of this are tearing our rights apart," he said.
Their message seemed to reach the commissioners' ears. Commissioner Roy Martinez was surprised at the turnout. "I'm not sure this is the right thing to do yet. I didn't know that there was this much opposition to it," Martinez said.
The TAHC postponed their decision to adopt the program. Some members, like Commissioner Jerry Windham, even spoke out against it. "I'll tell you this. I'm really not for this thing. I think we should delay this action long enough for the USDA to get their act together and for the Texas Legislature to hear from the people about what we're doing here," Windham said.
Last year lawmakers ordered the TAHC to come up with an identification plan. Commission Chair Richard Traylor said it had to be in line with federal goals for disease control and protecting animal health. "This is not something we went out and asked for. These are expectations from the Legislature," Traylor said.
The nationwide deadlines for state compliance have been postponed and farmers say the state ones should be, too. "Why is Texas proceeding with mandatory premise ID at this time when the USDA has backed off on its goal of mandatory compliance by 2008?" another local farmer said.
If the commission adopts the plan Texas will be the fourth U.S. state to mandate registration. While many farmers suspect the program will eventually take shape at the national level and trickle down, they do not believe Texas should be leading the way.
The commission will readdress the issue at their next meeting on May 4.