MINUTES SUBCOMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE, RURAL AFFAIRS AND COASTAL RESOURCES Wednesday, September 6, 2006 10:00 a.m. Capitol Extension, Room E1.016 ***** Pursuant to a notice posted in accordance with Senate Rule 11.18, a public hearing of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Coastal Resources was held on Wednesday, September 6, 2006, in the Capitol Extension, Room E1.016, at Austin, Texas. ***** MEMBERS PRESENT: MEMBERS ABSENT: Senator Craig Estes Senator Juan Hinojosa Senator Mike Jackson ***** The chair called the meeting to order at 10:00 a.m. There being a quorum present, the following business was transacted: The first invited witnesses were a panel from Texas A&M University, Dr. Andy Vestal, Agriculture and Natural Resources Emergency Management, Texas Cooperative Extension Service, and Dr. Buddy Faries, Extension Program Leader for Veterinary Medicine, Texas Cooperative Extension Service. Dr. Vestal testified about adding the Texas Cooperative Extension (TCE) to the State Emergency Management Council (SEMC) because of the critical role of the county extension agent. TCE supports local and community needs with public information and educational services in every county. Dr. Faries testified that the first line of defense in emergencies involving foreign and emerging animal diseases (FEADs) is with animal owners, county extension agents, and private veterinarians to ensure early detection and rapid reporting. The next panel of witnesses, representing state agencies, consisted of Dr. Dee Ellis, Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), Dr. Bob Hillman, TAHC, David Kostroun, Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA), and David Morrison, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). Dr. Ellis reported on diseases that concern Texas agriculture and are monitored in Texas, including hoof and mouth disease, BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), and poultry diseases. Dr. Hillman gave an update on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). He explained that the three major components of NAIS premises identification, animal identification, and animal tracking have been initiated. Premises identification has been implemented in all states and is voluntary in all states except Wisconsin and Indiana. The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture current position is that NAIS should be voluntary and that market forces should encourage producer participation. Premises identification is an important component for disease control. David Kostroun testified regarding how other states are addressing plant disease and intentional threats to the food supply. TDA seeks to improve detection and monitoring in case of an outbreak. Texas does not have permanent road inspection stations which are used in other states, but has utilized temporary road inspection stations. Kostroun testified that permanent road stations would be beneficial in the state. David Morrison testified on the avian influenza monitoring process in Texas. He stated that no cases of avian influenza have been detected in North America and that the current form of the disease is not easily transmittable. The problem is the migratory nature of wild waterfowl which have overlapping summer territories in the north and could transmit disease from Southeast Asia to North America. Texas will continue to sample birds from sport hunting and other live bird collection points. The next group of witnesses was from livestock cattle breeder organizations, Ed Small, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), John Cowan, Texas Association of Dairymen (TAD), Josh Winegarner, Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA), Bruce Dopslauf, Independent Cattlemen's Association of Texas, and Dan Dierske, Texas Farm Bureau. Mr. Small testified TSCRA has been in favor of NAIS and supported H.B. 1361 enacted last session. John Cowan testified that any animal tracking system must comport with the USDA regulations. He stated that it is a matter of public safety as well as public health. TAD favors moving forward with the identification system. Mr. Winegarner testified that TCFA is working to enhance response and preparedness for foreign animal disease in order to protect the industry. He said that premise and animal identification are means for combating disease and that TCFA supported H.B. 1361. Winegarner said that TCFA's position is that NAIS must be made mandatory to be efficient and effective and that it also must remain confidential. Mr. Dopslauf testified that ICA works with state and national groups to protect the cattle and beef industry. He said that ICA supports and encourages voluntary premises identification system that must be simple and workable. He supports a "bookend system" with tags and harvesting of tags at slaughter, noting that premise and animal identification should be sufficient, without tracking every animal movement. ICA supports a voluntary system that works with the market but is not unwieldy or expensive. Mr. Dierske testified that TFB supports the work of the government agencies. He also testified that TFB encourages the state to examine ways to increase the efficiency and production of ethanol and supports border security. The next panel representing industry consisted of Judith McGeary, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA), Steve Bridges, Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (TOFGA), Brad Stufflebeam, TOFGA, and Mark Levin, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Center for Effective Justice. Ms. McGeary testified that FARFA is a new organization created as a result of H.B. 1361 and the TAHC rulemaking process. FARFA does not oppose a voluntary program. She testified that some animal owners were led to believe that premises registration was mandatory and that they would be criminally penalized for noncompliance. She testified that the state needs to consider the level of risk, the economic cost, the cost to rights and privacy, and the alleged benefits to be gained from NAIS. She added that Texas should make programs that respect the different sizes of livestock producers and tailor programs to the specific species. FARFA recommended several alternative means for protecting agricultural interests in Texas. Mr. Bridges testified about the "local food movement" and commented that TOFGA is forming a public policy committee in an attempt to become more involved. TOFGA opposes NAIS because of concerns that it will eventually become mandatory. Bridges said that food comes from farms and that the factory farm model is not the only way to raise food. He said that factories, not farmers, benefit from NAIS and that the food supply needs to be decentralized and diversified to make it less vulnerable to attack of all kinds. Bridges believes the government should stay out of the personal lives of citizens because it goes against the core values of this country and a rural lifestyle. Mr. Stufflebeam testified that he is a full-time farmer representing small farmers and ranchers in support of independent and sustainable small family farms. He said that the NAIS program does not take into account small rural community life and that there is no assurance that the information collected will be secure. Mr. Stufflebeam stated that NAIS places an unfair burden on the smaller producer. He recommends increased border inspections, education for small producers on how to identify and prevent disease, and diversification of the local food supply. Mr. Levin testified that there are more than 1,700 criminal offenses on the books and that the state does not need to create another criminal offense of noncompliance with NAIS. The next panel of witnesses representing industry included Bob Turner, Texas Poultry Federation (TPF); Guy Sheppard, Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA); Ken Horton, Texas Pork Producers Association (TPPA); and David Hooper, Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA). Mr. Turner testified TPF is supportive of premises identification and the requirements of the federal program because premise and animal identification are essential to control animal diseases. Mr. Sheppard stated that early efforts of the voluntary identification program have worked. He mentioned the requirements placed on TAHC by the Legislature to raise fees to meet the agency budget needs. Sheppard said that TVMA stands strongly in support of TAHC and the procurement of funding for its operation. Mr. Horton testified that TPPA is concerned about disease threats from all sources and continues to support H.B. 1361 with voluntary premises registration. He said that TPPA does not believe that proper procedures are in place at this time to provide an effective individual animal identification program and that there is no real benefit for recording animal movement. Mr. Hooper testified that TTA is opposed to the identification program and the imposed deadlines. He said that current regulations cover the transport of horses and that any additional regulations create unnecessary costs. He recommends that the state legislature delay programs for horses until the USDA acts on the request of horse groups to be exempt from NAIS. Following the invited testimony, public testimony was presented by: Mayor Ed Smith, Marshall, Texas, stated that as a horse breeder he is opposed to H.B. 1361. He believes that most Texans affected by the legislation and proposed rulemaking were not aware of it. Smith testified that the provisions of H.B. 1361 would harm, hinder, and restrain the growth of the livestock industry generally and especially the equine industry. Dr. Joe David Ross, retired veterinarian, representing himself, testified that horses do not get hoof-and-mouth disease but that they do get diseases that require quarantine and that transporting horses and other show animals can spread disease. Ross noted that identification of sheep and goats has been mandated since 2001. Ross said that he recommends the state act deliberatively and not adopt premise identification until USDA has fully implemented the federal program. The last witness, Ms. Amanda Cohen testified that NAIS could prevent her from owning the 10 chickens she raises as a hobby. She suggested that if the identification system is implemented a "cut off" limit should be included for small operations. There being no further business, at 2:35 p.m. Senator Estes moved that the subcommittee stand recessed subject to the call of the chair.