Cattlemen don’t truck with new USDA transport to slaughter for horses rule

Source: The Cattle Network website:

    Livestock Marketing Association has told the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the agency’s proposed new rule on transporting horses sets up “an unauthorized administrative and enforcement nightmare for the equine industry and livestock markets.”

    The rule would expand the current ban on using double-decker trucks to transport horses to slaughter, to banning their use to transport horses to intermediate points, such as a stockyard, feedlot or assembly point, before arriving at a slaughter plant.

    USDA has no clear-cut authority to regulate equine “that are not going directly to slaughter,” and thus is erroneously trying to expand the scope of current regulations, LMA said in comments dated Jan. 7.

    “LMA is concerned these changes will have a significant negative administrative impact on its member markets, and a broader negative economic impact on the equine industry,” the marketing sector trade association said.

    As the agency well knows, horses sold at auction markets “are sold for a number of different purposes…(and) any attempt to manage or limit the trucking of horses to and from auction markets or other intermediate delivery points, in anticipation (of) but without full realization of what use they will eventually be put to, either before or after the sale, is without merit and goes beyond the scope of the law,” LMA wrote.

    Almost as troubling as the unwarranted expansion of current regulations is USDA’s admission they have little or no “hard numbers” on the degree to which double-decker trucks are currently being used to move slaughter horses to intermediate assembly points, LMA wrote.

    In its background information on the proposed rule, the agency concedes, “We believe that equines may be delivered to these intermediate points, en route to slaughter, for the sole purpose of avoiding compliance with (current handling) regulations.”

    Furthermore, LMA notes, “It is insufficient reason to enforce more regulation on the equine industry, livestock sales and so-called intermediate assembly points by stating in the proposed rule that the Department ‘has received numerous reports of this situation (transporting horses to intermediate assembly points to circumvent the law) occurring.’ ”

    The livestock marketing sector and the equine industry, LMA wrote, “deserve much more proof of non-compliance with the current regulations than unsubstantiated claims in whatever numbers the Department has indiscriminately determined is numerous.”

    In its proposal, USDA also admits data on the transport of horses to intermediate points en route to slaughter “is sparse at best, (and) we were not able to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the proposed rule’s potential economic impact.”

    Like USDA, LMA also does not have this hard data, the association wrote. However, “a number of our member markets have reported…that in their experience very few of these trucks are in use today in transporting horses for any purpose,” particularly since USDA in December, 2006 banned the use of double-decker trucks to commercially transport horses to slaughter.

    “Until the agency has a better fix on the degree of the problem,” LMA concluded, “their ability to enforce this rule on the many versus a selective few and its overall impact on the equine industry and allied businesses, the proposed rule should be withdrawn.”

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