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

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

*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

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
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