Reasons why CPoW is opposed to RFID tags

The current Washington State Department of Agriculture proposal to force ranchers to put RFID tags in cows and bulls in Washington State is being opposed by Cattle Producers of Washington for the following reasons:

1.The proposal would create an undue burden on cattle producers. The rule would put an undue burden on cattle producers in the state, both in the forms of financial outlay and increased labor demands. The RFID proposal would also put Washington State at a competitive disadvantage compared to other states that are not forcing the use of RFID tags.

In addition, Washington producers would not only have to purchase the reading equipment and computer software to read the tags, but the man hours required to successfully read, record and transmit information are prohibitive for most cattle producers.  With many operations running a lean and efficient crew of owner-operators, this regulation would demand time and labor beyond the capacity of most operations.

2.The proposed RFID regulation does not address imported cattle. Cattle imported into Washington are not addressed in the proposed rule. In recent years, disease outbreaks in cattle have not manifested from within Washington State, but have been from imported cattle. The proposed rule does not currently apply to imported cattle but rather is applied to Washington herds that are currently disease free.

3.The proposal would discourage the current practice of using bangs and trichinosis vaccinations. The rule would discourage producers from either bangs or trichinosis vaccinating their cattle for fear of undue government intrusion and regulation of their business. Bangs and trichinosis vaccinations are currently an industry standard, but they are not mandated by law and many producers may choose to stop these vaccinations if they are linked to the forced use of an RFID tag. Small producers will be particularly inclined to forgo the vaccination in order to avoid the government intrusion, thereby weakening Washington’s overall cattle herd health.

4.Security of proprietary information is not assured by the proposal. The proposal currently has no assurance that proprietary ranch information recorded with an RFID tag and transmitted to the state would be secure. The proposal does not list how the information would be safeguarded or who would have access to the information. Expecting ranches to turn over their private business information with no surety of confidentiality or secure storage is unreasonable. In addition, proprietary ranch information should not be used without producer consent to market meat products, as outlined in the proposal.

5.Tag durability and retention is not certain. Data regarding RFID tags to date shows that there is roughly a 20 percent loss of the tags in an average herd of cattle. Additionally, there are no safeguards against fraud, as tags can be easily removed and replaced on any animal. There is also no data to show if tags in mother cows will last as long as the rancher generally retains a mature cow, which could be as long as eight to 10 years.

6.Successive phases of the proposed rule have not been outlined. WSDA has failed to outline what the successive phases of an RFID mandatory tag implementation would be. While outlining only an initial step, it has failed to outline an overall system which would likely include mandatory premises registration and other pending regulations. Failing to outline an entire plan is misleading and may induce ranchers to utilize the first component of the system (tags) without realizing the successive obligations and costs they will incur as new phases of the program are mandated.



CPoW opposes RFID tag rule proposal

The Cattle Producers of Washington are working to alert cattle producers in the state that the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) is planning to force ranchers to use electronic eartags, despite their prohibitive costs and inefficiencies.

CPoW, a state cow-calf producers’ group, learned that WSDA plans to mandate use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) ear tags in the near future, forcing the regulation on ranchers via agency rules.

“We are concerned about this proposal for a number of reasons, but primarily because this kind of system will put family ranchers out of business in Washington State,” said CPoW President Scott Nielsen. “This unproven technology is not needed and will burden ranchers with its costs and inefficiencies.”

Washington State already has both a brand program and an Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) system in place that cattle producers pay for via inspection fees and a 23 cents a head assessment for ADT. The ADT program, which aimed to improve disease traceability by making more transit paperwork electronic, is less than four years old and has not yet been fully implemented. CPoW argues that the state should not start mandating additional technologies when the current system is not proven.

“Beef cattle producers have been faithfully using the brand system and paying the ADT fee while other cattle owners have failed to participate in the system,” said Nielsen. “What needs to be addressed is the segment of cattle owners, primarily dairy owners, who are refusing to comply with the law.”

Nielsen points out that the state created a special database with taxpayer dollars, known as the ECTR system that used ear tag identification, for dairies that were resistant to using the brand. However, despite this special effort to accommodate dairies, only two dairymen in the state of WA have actually registered to use the system.

“Our agriculture department needs to focus on enforcing the law in the sectors that are in violation before it tries to pile new regulations on the part of the industry that is compliant,” said Nielsen.

In addition, CPoW has specific concerns about RFID technology including:

*The estimated cost per tag is a minimum of $2 per tag. Tag retention is problematic, especially in range cattle and the technology to read the tags, a hand wand, often must be 12-18 inches from the ear in order to be read. Additionally, metal corrals, weather and a lack of Wi-Fi/Internet connections can all impede the technology according to a recent USDA study.

*RFID tags are highly susceptible to fraud. Unlike a brand, which cannot be removed, an RFID tag can be easily removed and replaced, essentially scrubbing the background information of an animal and allowing changes of ownership to occur without an inspection.

*Software between RFID tag readers is oftentimes not compatible and reader technology is not reliable, often missing tag signals or confusing tag information. Loading and unloading animals for transit in order to try and get RFID technology to work adds stress to an animal, labor costs to the ranch and does not improve the capture of information.


WSDA to force RFID tags on cattle producers

The Washington State Department of Agriculture recently published a proposal to force cattle producers in the state to tag their cows and bulls with radio frequency identification tags.  CPoW is opposed to this measure and is working to stop what will be an unnecessary and expensive regulation.

Below is the WSDA’s proposal language that outlines why they think the tags are needed. The proposal notes the brand is not considered individual identification: (words of interest are in bold)

WSR 18-01-139



[Filed December 20, 2017, 8:54 a.m.]

Subject of Possible Rule Making: Chapter 16-604 WAC, Public livestock markets—Health, facilities, and sanitation, the department is considering amending chapter 16-604 WAC, to require official United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) radio-frequency identification device (RFID) on all sexually intact cattle and bison over eighteen months of age.

To align with federal requirements, the department is also considering amending chapter 16-604 WAC to amend the requirement that markets must maintain records from one year to five years.

Statutes Authorizing the Agency to Adopt Rules on this Subject: RCW 16.36.040 and chapter 34.05 RCW.

Reasons Why Rules on this Subject may be Needed and What They Might Accomplish: Current regulations require public livestock markets to officially identify all sexually intact cattle and bison over eighteen months of age with official individual identification prior to being presented for sale. The Washington state department of agriculture (WSDA) is proposing to move away from the required metal official individual identification tag and require RFID.

WSDA’s intent is to provide free RFID tags as funding is available from USDA cooperative agreements.

Animal disease traceability (ADT) is a state and federal program which sets standards for individual animal identification and data management for animal tracing, protecting animal agriculture, animal health, human health and the state’s economy. Application of ADT principals supports a safe food supply, assists in the prevention of zoonotic diseases, allows marketing opportunities, and protects the state’s livestock industry by making it possible to quickly identify, locate and contain animals exposed to or infected with disease.

WSDA made a commitment to work with Washington’s livestock industry and build a comprehensive and robust ADT system for animal agriculture in our state. WSDA has taken a number of proactive and necessary steps towards achieving the goal of a functional ADT system. WSDA currently has several programs which provide information for ADT, including green tags and electronic cattle transaction reporting for the dairy industry, health certificates, testing and vaccination records, and livestock inspection (brand certificates). While hot iron brand is a useful tool, relying on brand for individual ADT is not feasible as a brand does not provide individual animal identification. Currently the brand program is facing significant budgetary challenges which the agency is currently addressing through interim service reduction measures. The department remains committed to maintaining a strong brand program. In addition, data base systems have been created to ensure all programs capturing ADT information are housed in the same data base (animal tracks). Outreach and education efforts were increased, and state policies modified, all to support an ADT program.

USDA has set expectations for WSDA to show continued progress on implementing a robust ADT program to include increasing the use of official RFID. To continue progressing ADT in the state of Washington capturing individual identification is imperative in tracing livestock and protecting our livestock industry. Capturing official identification remains a challenge as imprinted tag numbers can prove difficult to read and record accurately due to human error. Official electronic identification devices have proven to be a reliable, efficient and cost-effective way to capture official identification for ADT.

United States beef exports to China must now meet specified requirements under the USDA export verification program which includes traceability to the United States birth farm using a unique identifier, or if imported to the first place of residence or port of entry. A ban implemented by China after the 2003 case in Washington of mad cow, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, closed important global markets to United States cattle producers. Prior to 2003, the United States was China’s largest supplier of imported beef, providing seventy percent of their total consumption.

The department will continue to move ADT forward with a multi-phase approach and implementation, the first phase being this proposed rule making, with the end goal of having all cattle identified with RFID before leaving a Washington premises.

WSDA is proposing to align regulations with USDA regulations and USDA requires public livestock markets to maintain records for five years.

Other Federal and State Agencies that Regulate this Subject and the Process Coordinating the Rule with These Agencies: USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, Veterinary Services regulates intrastate movement of animals and ADT.

Department staff have been discussing this proposal and our federal partners support continuing to move ADT forward in Washington.

Process for Developing New Rule: Department staff will discuss any proposed amendments with affected stakeholders. Affected stakeholders will also have an opportunity to submit written comments on the proposed rules during the public comment period and will be able to present oral testimony at the public hearing.

Interested parties can participate in the decision to adopt the new rule and formulation of the proposed rule before publication by contacting Jodi Jones, P.O. Box 42577, Olympia, WA 98504-2577, phone 360-902-1889, fax 360-902-2087, email, web site

December 20, 2017

Dr. Brian Joseph

State Veterinarian


CPoW becomes an R-CALF affiliate

Earlier this year, the Board of Cattle Producers of Washington voted to become an affiliate of R-CALF USA. CPoW will be working closely with R-CALF in the future to advance the interests of ranch families at the state and national level. Below is a welcome letter from R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard:

A Warm Welcome to CPoW Members


Dear Members of CPoW,

From the very beginning, the ranching members of the Cattle Producers of Washington (CPoW) have worked aggressively to preserve competition and improve economic opportunities for independent ranchers.  From highlighting the need for country of origin labeling (COOL) through the collection of actual import data to starting a meatpacking plant, CPoW personifies the American rancher:  hard working, independent, never gives up, and does what’s right.

Those qualities are needed now more than ever, particularly at the national level.  With a new Administration and New Congress, CPoW’s voice needs to reach Washington, D.C., and needs to be strengthened with the voices of other like-minded cattle ranchers so the ongoing decline of our U.S. cattle industry can be reversed.

CPoW’s decision to affiliate with R-CALF USA will help us accomplish this task. By working together, state-to-national support will be greatly enhanced for such issues as reinstating COOL, removing market access restrictions, restoring competition, stopping packers from undermining domestic prices with unlimited imports, and reforming the beef checkoff program so ranchers aren’t compelled to finance lobbying organizations that work against them.

The national Board and staff of R-CALF USA extends a warm welcome to CPoW and its members and we look forward to working with all of you to continue fighting for the independent U.S. cattle producer.


Bill Bullard, CEO




R-CALF, CPoW ask judge to decide on COOL case

Spokane, Wash. – Last week, co-plaintiffs R-CALF USA and the Cattle Producers of Washington (CPoW) filed a brief for summary judgement in their country-of-origin labeling (COOL) case in the federal district court located in Spokane, Wash.  The groups seek to reinstate that portion of the recently repealed COOL law that required beef and pork imported from foreign countries to retain their origin labels all the way to the consumer.
The brief alleges that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is knowingly violating U.S. law by not requiring meatpackers to carry forward the country-of-origin labels that are on the packages and containers when meat is imported, so that origin information is passed along to consumers rather than stripped off the products.
It alleges the USDA is allowing meatpackers to remove origin labels even after the agency itself, its attorneys, and the Congressional Research Service have acknowledged that the USDA’s regulations are in conflict with U.S. law.
The groups further state that rather than comply with the law, the USDA allows multinational meatpackers to reclassify foreign meat as a domestic product even if all the meatpackers do is unwrap and rewrap the imported product.
They state the USDA then allows the repackaged foreign product to be labeled as a ‘Product of the U.S.A.’
“Accordingly, the packers, who control nearly the entire market, only compensate domestic producers based on what they would pay for foreign meat, produced free from the United States’ food safety, production and labor laws,” the groups state.
They argue the USDA is aiding multinational meatpackers while undermining the viability of domestic ranchers.
The groups explain that before Congress’ repeal, this problem was resolved because the COOL law required labels on imported meat to be retained ‘through retail sale.’ Consequently, companies could no longer pass off imported meat as domestic and they had to compensate domestic producers at a premium rate for their premium domestic product.
 The brief asserts that R-CALF USA and CPoW’s members receive increased compensation for their cattle when they can market it as fully produced in the United States because of the high consumer demand for domestically produced beef.
And, it states, that when Congress repealed COOL, the meatpackers began paying domestic producers at the rate of the lowest common denominator of beef – what they pay for foreign meat.
The groups’ members have been told by multinational meatpackers that if COOL returns, the packers would again have to pay a premium for domestic cattle.
Put simply, the groups argue the USDA is unlawfully undermining their market for domestic cattle and their lawsuit is needed because the proper enforcement of labeling requirements on imported beef is central to domestic ranchers’ livelihood.
Attorneys representing the ranch groups include David S. Muraskin, a Food Safety and Health Attorney at Public Justice; Beth E. Terrell and Blythe H. Chandler of Terrell Marshall Law Group; and J. Dudley Butler of Butler Farm & Ranch Law Group, PLLC.

Annual banquet coming up Oct. 28


Our annual Cattle Producers of Washington banquet is coming up on Sat., Oct. 28 at Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights. Ticket prices are $75 for all day and dinner; $35 for a day ticket that includes lunch or $45 for a dinner-only ticket for our prime rib dinner.

Below is a schedule of events for the day:


Registration: 9:30-10:00am

10:00am-11:15am—Bill Bullard, R-CALF USA

11:15-12:00pm—Ken McNamee, Washington State Department of Natural Resources


1:00-2:00pm—CPoW business meeting

2:00-3:00pm—Travis Fletcher, U.S. Forest Service on grazing issues

3:00—4:00pm—Steve McLaughlin, wolf issue

4:00-5:00pm—Brian Dansel, Farm Service Agency

5:00-6:00pm–Social hour

6:00pm–Prime rib dinner

6:00-8:30pm–Ron Tebow, Cowboy poet and auction


THANK YOU TO OUR 2017 BANQUET SPONSORS! Make sure to support these businesses when you are purchasing supplies or services:



PLATINUM ($1,000):



GOLD ($500):




NW FARM SUPPLY (Mike Countryman)



LAZY LIGHTNING H RANCH (Chad and Jamie Henneman)

RED BULL RANCH(Dave and Julie Dashiell)

SILVER ($250):




COWS-R-US (Craig and Bonnie Schafer)


BRONZE ($150):





Cattle producers band together in lawsuit to bring back COOL

Consumers deserve to know where their meat comes from

Cattle Producers of Washington recently joined with the Ranchers-Cattlemen Legal Action Fund (R-CALF) to file a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Department of Agriculture in order to bring back Country of Origin labeling for beef products. The labeling provision that clearly marked where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered  was in effect until 2016 when it was repealed by the USDA over a trade dispute.

The COOL labeling is critical both to consumers who want to know where their meat is coming from ,as well as American ranchers who benefit from having their product clearly marked in the supermarket.

CPoW President Scott Nielson, noted how important country of origin labels are to the American family ranch.

“Cattle Producers of Washington proudly raise a safe wholesome product under the rules and regulations required by our lawmakers,” said Nielsen.” We should not be forced to compete with beef from other countries that do not have the same health and safety standards without the ability to allow the American consumer to make an informed decision about what they are feeding their families.”

The lawsuit against the USDA seeks to bring back COOL by pointing out that current USDA policy allows imported beef and pork to be classified as “domestic products”, which confuses consumers and harms American ranchers. Additionally, under current rules multinational companies can sell meat raised and slaughtered abroad with a “Product of USA” label alongside truly domestic products raised by U.S. ranchers.

The USDA previously required Country-of-Origin Labeling but a trade dispute between the U.S. and countries exporting cattle to the US caused the USDA to repeal the labeling. As a result, labeling requirements regarding beef imports are now unclear and the agency has several conflicting rules on the books. Consumers have also lost the ability to make informed choices at the meat counter.

“Transnational beef packers are supplanting U.S. beef production with imported beef, including from countries with questionable food safety practices,” said Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA. “Unfortunately, our U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping them by making sure consumers cannot distinguish imported beef from USA beef. This is harming America’s farmers and ranchers and is not what Congress intended. We hope our lawsuit helps U.S. consumers choose to buy American beef.”

Both cattlemen’s groups are being represented by Public Justice, a non-profit Washington D.C. law firm.

Beef Checkoff bill would charge buyer, not seller

A bill to increase the amount of the Washington State Beef Checkoff assessment for cattle producers has undergone several revisions this legislative session, but the most significant recent change is to charge the buyer of the cattle the assessment instead of the seller. At present, the seller (usually the cow-calf producer) pays the current fee of $1.50 per head tax–an amount that makes up both the national .50 cent Beef Checkoff assessment and the $1.00 that goes to the Washington State Beef Commission.

Senate Bill 5793 (SB 5793) sponsored by Sen. Judy Warnick, would change who pays the assessment from the seller to the buyer. The new bill language would levy a total assessment of $2.00 on all cattle sold in the state to be paid by the purchaser at the time of sale. The bill does include an exemption for dairy calves enrolled in the “green tag” program. A “sale” in the bill would include the transfer of cattle owned by a meat packer from a feed lot to the slaughterhouse.

According to CPoW lobbyist Jim Potts, the bill is currently setting in the Senate Rules committee and may be pulled to the floor anytime during the current special session.


Cattle Producers, Sunny Okanogan host FFA livestock judging competition

The Sunny Okanogan Angus Ranch, in connection with Cattle Producers of Washington, had another amazing turn out for the annual FFA judging competition held at the Sunny Okanogan Bull Sale on March 9.  The event hosted 186 kids plus advisors and helpers from across Washington State.

For the competition, the students split into teams of 5 and were able to judge 5 classes: Feeder Steers, Replacement Heifers, Calving Ease Yearling Bulls, Growth Yearling Bulls and Fall Bulls. Jerry Asmussen of Tonasket acted as the volunteer judge at the event.


Team Placing:

1st Place – Tonasket

2nd Place – Chelan

3rd Place – Omak

4th Place – Tonasket


Individual Placing:

1st – Lauran Montoya – Chelan

2nd – Shanell McCune – Omak

3rd – Rico Sandoval – Kittitas

4th – Levi Silverthorn – Tonasket

CPoW Legislative Days a Success


Many representatives from CPoW headed to Olympia in late January to talk with legislators about issues affecting our industry. Below is a list of position statements that our members shared with Washington’s Representatives and Senators:


No citizen should be forced to allow predators of any kind to kill or maim his flocks, herds, pets, small animals, and in some cases—his family or loved ones.

Since the state or federal government claim ownership or management of these predators, they should be responsible for removing any predator that violates this basic principal.

If these governing bodies are unable or unwilling to perform this requirement, then it becomes the obligation of the county sheriff to perform this task.

If the sheriff is unwilling or unable to accomplish this obligation, then it becomes the right and the duty of the affected citizens to accomplish this very necessary mission.


Cattle Producers of Washington will NOT support a bill that increases the Beef Checkoff fee by an additional dollar per head until the entire industry is participating and abiding by the current regulations and our checkoff dollars are used to promote a Washington born, raised and slaughtered product. Allowing certain segments of cattle owners to avoid paying the checkoff, including dairy segments, is unacceptable.

A majority of Washington producers that pay the Beef Checkoff fee do not support this increase. We demand the proposed increased fee be made voluntary, or put to a vote by those who pay the fee.


CPoW does not support an increase to the state brand department fees. Other alternatives, including changing from a fee-for-service system or becoming a required all-brand state, need to be considered before passing on increases to Washington’s declining number of ranchers. The number of ranchers in Washington State has declined 52 percent since 1984 but the brand department fee-for-service system still charges ranchers in the same way, passing on a growing administrative burden on fewer producers.


The RCW that allows the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) to determine when water quality is impaired should be modified to require site-based, source-specific testing overseen by a third party.