Hello all: Here is a review of the proposed U.S.Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) new scrapie regulations.
*Key Practical Conclusion* Scrapie is a deadly transmittable disease to which sheep and goats are susceptible. It gestates slowly - it takes 14 months to be detectable - so if an animal moves to another farm or to slaughter, it can affect many other flocks or facilities long before the sick animal shows symptoms. [Please correct my understanding if I have erred in any way on the medical aspect.] This little review is to look at a major overhaul of the federal scrapie prevention regulations, which now focus on genetic testing to determine resistance, and establishment of a national registry to centralize information about flocks and their movement. Until now, if an animal was discovered as scrapie-positive, the USDA would try to trace its movements, and especially its origin farm, and often demand immediate slaughter of any potentially exposed animals, after which it could find out if it was right by an autopsy. Inexpensive testing is now available to see if animals have a genetic resistance to scrapie (about $11 a piece), and this may change everything. Under the new rule, if the flock owner can show tests that prove all of his or her sheep are resistant, there will be no need to destroy the flock. *Big takeaway*: Get the testing done! A certain gene in the sheep has a part that is tested that shows scrapie resistance. If the test shows an "RR" marker, then the animal is fully resistant to scrapie. Some have QRs, which make them somewhat resistant, or QQs which are not at all. I won't go into all the details of the testing protocol here, but I think that this new USDA rule, and the new opportunities afforded by cheap testing mean that every owner should probably get every animal tested, so if the USDA or the state Dept. of Agriculture shows up one day with some bad news about a possible trace of an infected animal back to your farm, you can survive the experience. If you have the test documentation to show resistance, and you have worked to have all RR animals and eliminate the QQ animals from your flock you will then probably save your flock from destruction. *General Issues with the New Rule* Like all federal regulations, this one moves a lot of power from persons and states to the feds. This is a process that is ongoing in many areas of law, not just agriculture, and is frankly alarming. While a central registry of sheep may be helpful to more quickly identify and eliminate scrapie outbreaks, the downside is that it creates yet another massive federal bureaucracy, along with more powerful action against farmers when it wants to don the jack boots and enforce it. Further, these are agency regulations, not laws, meaning that Congress has declined to do its duty to make the laws, and has delegated that key power to agency wonks, some of whom may have political agendas, and none of whom are elected. The states could have set up an interstate cooperation protocol to do the same thing: i.e. keep track of sheep movement, without having the feds involved at all. After all, no state wants diseased animals on its farms! Because of the new ease of genetic testing, the feds are now going to centralize information and become much more involved and active in categorizing and regulating sheep on a local level. Prior to this, they could only confirm scrapie by post-mortem testing. Now, they will now animal susceptibility quickly, have iron-clad rules and risk assessment protocols, and impose hard-edged enforcement. *Relevant Provisions of New Regulations* The regulations are written in agency-ese and abbreviations, but this brief review below puts it in English. If you require assistance in falling asleep, read the regulations themselves. The regulations create a "big brother" type character in charge of all of this stuff called "The Administrator", who is the stand in for the more thuggish aspects of the rule, and appears as a specter to enforce every rule. In reality, it will be "The Administrator's" minions who carry out the regulations on a day to day basis. Here are some of the key provisions: A. *New "trace-back" and "trace-forward" rules.* If an animal is diagnosed with scrapie, they will try to identify where it came from, and where it went, and investigate every stop along the way. Exposed sheep who are not provably resistant by testing may have to be destroyed. [Pg. 54660-54661 of reg.] B. * Categories of risk when sheep are exposed to scrapie* - The rule creates four categories of risk: 1) Genetically resistant exposed sheep (RR); 2) Less susceptible exposed animals (AA, QR, or AV/QR) 3) low-risk exposed animal, which is fuzzy-wuzzy in the regs. 4) genetically susceptible exposed animals, which includes ALL GOATS, plus sheep with QQ, HH, QH, QK, KK, or KH) Each of these are dealt with differently. If your flock ends up in category one, they - and you- survive without a slaughter order. [Pg. 54663 of the reg] C. *The above categories lead to a complicated set of rules* that control the movement of animals and slaughter of high risk sheep. If one of your animals is implicated, your farm becomes a "flock under investigation". If the farmer won't do testing, or won't remove genetically susceptible animals, then the flock becomes an "exposed flock". Then, if the the farmer continues to resist "The Administrator", the farm gets the designation, "non-compliant flock", and opens the farm to drastic oversight by "The Administrator". [Pg. 54664-54665] D.* RED ALERT: Record Keeping and Entry without a warrant!!!* The agency will now be able to force you to keep records about each animal, and make those records available to bureaucrats upon demand. The U.S. Constitution and all state constitutions protect citizens from entry on property and searches and seizures without a warrant issued by a court or magistrate based on probable cause that a crime has been committed. This regulation trashes those critical rights, by demanding that government employees be able to enter, search and inspect, and seize your records, and maybe your entire flock, without a warrant. [Pg. 54669] E. *Required State Surveillance of Your Farm - The Snitch Network* The regulations require the states to set set up a "scrapie surveillance" (their term), which is actually a snitch network (my term) to report any lack of compliance with the regulations to "The Administrator" and his USDA henchmen. The "surveillance network" has complicated reporting requirements of various metrics and compliance targets. [Pg. 54672] F. *They Don't Know What This will cost you* All regulations now have to disclose the costs vs. benefits that they impose on their target victims. in this case, they admit they have no idea of what costs it will impose, especially on small farms. Hmmm.. [Pg. 54674] G. *Lastly, this regulation now overrules state and local law* "All state and local laws and regulations that stand in conflict with it will be preempted." The iron fist in the velvet glove. -- Gregory A. Hession J.D. 93 Summer Street P.O. Box 543 Thorndike, MA 01079 (413) 289-9164 office (413) 433-7508 cell greg.hess...@massoutrage.com www.massoutrage.com _______________________________________________ This message is from the Blackbelly mailing list Visit the list's homepage at %http://www.blackbellysheep.info