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USDA accused of continuing push for RFID mandate, R-CALF back in court

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – A new legal motion filed in a U.S. District Court of Wyoming reveals that despite the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) assurances to the court that it is no longer pursuing its Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) mandate, a recently published article under the USDA’s control continues to promote those requirements.

In October 2019, the Ranchers Cattlemen Legal Fund (R-CALF)  filed a lawsuit alleging that the USDA had unlawfully issued a mandate to require cattle producers to begin using by January 1, 2023, RFID eartags on every head of adult cattle shipped across state lines.

Shortly thereafter the USDA withdrew the RFID mandate and asked the court to dismiss the case on the grounds that, having withdrawn the requirement, the case was now moot.

The court agreed in February 2020 that USDA’s withdrawal of its mandate had effectively eliminated the controversy between the parties, and it issued an order dismissing the case. R-CALF then asked the court to issue a supplemental order that would prohibit the government from using any work product, reports and materials generated in the development of the USDA mandate, in any future regulatory action surrounding RFID tracking technology. That motion was denied.

Also in the month of February, USDA’s RFID mandate was published in the February 2020 Nebraska Cattleman Magazine, the official publication of the Nebraska Cattleman’s Association (NCA). The published information from the USDA notes that the mandate would now take effect as part of “Phase 3” of the agency’s plan for implementing the use of mandatory RFID technology.

After contacting USDA counsel about the published piece in the February 2020 Nebraska Cattleman Magazine, Harriet Hageman, attorney for R-CALF was told that the USDA considered the publication of the document an oversight on the part of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. 

The USDA RFID document would again appear on page 55 of the March 2020 edition of the NCA’s magazine.

Hageman’s most recent motion, filed on behalf of R-CALF USA and ranchers Tracy and Donna Hunt, Newcastle, Wyo., and Kenny and Roxy Fox, Belvidere, SD asks the court to reconsider its previous order to dismiss the case in light of the new information that allegedly shows USDA continuing to disseminate information on its RFID mandate.

“We’re somewhat at a loss to understand the USDA’s caviler attitude toward this blatant example of a federal agency that believes it is above the law and can infringe upon the rights, liberties and freedoms of America’s cattle producers with impunity,” said R-CALF USA Bill Bullard adding, “We hope our federal court system will apply adequate checks to rein in this agency.”

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