Senate passes Tester-Enzi plan to strip Animal ID funding

Senators’ amendment halves funding for controversial program

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The U.S. Senate this afternoon approved a bipartisan measure by Senators Jon Tester and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., to strip funding for the controversial Animal Identification Program.

Tester, like many other Montanans in production agriculture, is a longtime opponent of Animal ID.

As a member of the influential Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester included in the Agriculture Appropriations Act an amendment that cuts this year’s funding for Animal ID Program in half, from $14.6 million to $7.3 million.  After approving Tester’s and Enzi’s amendment Monday night, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill by a vote of 80-17.

“Right now Animal ID is an expensive mess that doesn’t work, and it’s time to take the wind out of the sails,” said Tester, a Big Sandy farmer.  “Slashing the funding for the Animal ID—or any other effort that just doesn’t work—is just common sense, and it’s the right thing to do for Montana’s ranchers.”

“The Animal ID program should remain strictly voluntary,” Enzi said.  “Rural America doesn’t need another federal program reaching into their lives with burdensome and costly hoops to jump through.”

The Animal ID Program is currently a voluntary initiative by the U.S. Department of Agriculture aimed at tracking livestock from birth to slaughter to enhance food safety.

But, Tester noted, the federal government so far has spent $142 million on Animal ID, with “no success and little popularity.”  Tester added that many of the nation’s food safety problems originate when food is processed, not on Montana’s farms and ranches.

Many agriculture organizations have signed on in support of Tester’s and Enzi’s Animal ID amendment.

As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Tester, along with Senator Max Baucus, secured in the Agriculture Appropriations Act more than $7 million in funding for Montana agriculture projects.

The bill now goes to a conference committee to work out differences between the House’s bill and the Senate’s bill.