It seems like about a week ago I wrote my first of 12 President’s messages. It’s really hard to believe I’m now writing my last. It has been an honor to have the opportunity to serve as your President. I will always treasure the memories from my travels this year and the people I’ve met along the way. What a blessing. Thank you.
We have had a productive year, and in spite of Mad Cow disease found in Alabama, Hurricane Irma, and other calamities, we have “Found a Way” to get a lot accomplished. As with most projects we take on at the state level, many jobs and projects will continue to get worked on as Alex Johns take the reins. All of us will be in very competent hands going forward. The names and faces change but the passion, the energy, and effort is always present. Thank you to all of you who work so hard on behalf of our Association and our Industry.
One of those ongoing projects will be Traceability…the ability to rapidly determine previous ownership and movement of cattle. There are many reasons that we would all benefit from Traceability but there are two overriding reasons we need to get this done soon. First, we have a responsibility as cattle producers to have Traceability in the event of animal disease outbreak. We are producing food … not just cows … and consumers deserve to know that their food is safe and we are being accountable. Secondly, we have the opportunity to establish Traceability before a disaster hits rather than waiting for it to be an overwhelming issue.
I established a Task Force to work on bringing Traceability to Florida that included all aspects of our Industry. We established 4 things early in our work: 1) Traceability was needed, 2) Electronic Identification tags were needed, 3) Cattle needed to be Identified as they entered commerce and, 4) It needed to be mandatory. There are a lot of other aspects that have to be part of this equation. Some of those concerns that have to be addressed include costs, data management, data security, and the impact of our markets. A lot of water will have to go under the bridge before we accomplish Traceability. We have to “Find A Way” to finish what we have started with Traceability.
We learned on a recent visit to Washington that the impact of Foot and Mouth disease in the US could be as much as $200 Billion. That is Billion with a B. On top of that, thousands and thousands of animals would have to be destroyed if we have an outbreak here. Traceability will not stop FMD from happening here. What it will do is allow us to respond rapidly, as with New World Screw worms, by being prepared ahead of time. That requires Traceability to locate and isolate the problem as quickly and efficiently as possible, limiting the damage. It also requires a FMD vaccine bank. Even Congress has recognized the importance and danger that is lurking out there. They included $150 million plus up to an additional $20 million for the next 4 years to establish a FMD vaccine bank in the Farm Bill. Our elected officials have done their part. It is up to us to “Find A Way” to step up to the plate and do ours. Be proactive. Get your Premise ID from FDACS if you haven’t already. Help the Livestock market you use by going ahead and getting your EID tags and tagging your animals before you take them to the Livestock market. I know all of them care deeply about their customers and will do all they can to help you, but it is your responsibility. Tell your Livestock markets that Traceability is important to you and that you want to be part of the solution.
We are working on a pilot program; a “Phase 1” if you will, that will not only include Livestock markets and producers who want to be a part of it, but also feed yards and harvest facilities. We also intend to work with a couple other states on this initiative. One day all of us will be glad we worked so hard on this.
I look forward to seeing everyone at ChampionsGate for our convention this month. Jim and his staff have been working hard in preparation and I know you’ll all have a great time seeing old friends and meeting new ones.
Thanks again for the opportunity to represent you this past year.