Monday, May 6, 2019

Modernizing the Livestock Inspection Program

Jodi Jones
Animal Health Program

A new law for WSDA's brand program goes into effect this summer. 
Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation intended to restore financial solvency to our Livestock Inspection Program (LID).

The program, which has roots dating back to the 1860s, is entirely funded by fees paid by the livestock industry and receives no state general fund dollars.

But in recent years, the program has been in financial crisis. The inspection fees it relies on are set in statute and had not been adjusted since 2006. Over time, rising costs outpaced fee revenue.

The livestock industry worked with the Washington State Legislature to develop a new fee structure to fully fund the program. Here are some of the major program changes taking effect this summer.

Program changes

The LID Program provides asset protection and theft deterrence for the livestock industry through inspections, verifying ownership documentation, and issuing a clear "title" to the new owner. We conduct proof of ownership inspections at five critical points:
  • At change of ownership.
  • At out-of-state movement.
  • When offered for sale at a public livestock market.
  • When delivered to a USDA slaughter facility.
  • When delivered to a certified feedlot.
The new law

  • Expands the Livestock Identification Advisory Committee from six to 12 members.
  • Modifies livestock inspection fees.
  • Allows WSDA-certified private livestock inspectors to perform livestock inspections.
  • Expands the Electronic Cattle Transaction Reporting (ECTR) system for dairy cattle to all cattle.
  • Takes effect July 28, 2019.

The following sections expire on July 1, 2023

  • Livestock Identification Advisory Committee.
  • Inspection fees.
  • Certified feedlot audit fees.
  • Public livestock market inspection fees.

Legislation will be required to extend LID program fees and inspection activities beyond that date.

New inspection fees

Under the bill passed by the Legislature, fees for livestock inspections rose by 10 percent, except the inspection fee for unidentified cattle which are defined as cattle that have a brand that is not recorded to the owner and cattle that are not identified with an official electronic individual identification tag. The fee for unidentified cattle changed from $1.60 to $4 per head.


  • The inspection fee for identified cattle is $1.21 per head.
  • The inspection fee for horses is $3.85 per head.
  • The audit fee for certified feedlots is 28 cents per head.
  • A $20 call-out fee replaces the time and mileage fee and will be collected for all inspections.
  • The annual license fee for a certified feed lot will be $935.
  • Annual fees for livestock markets are $165, $330, or $495, depending on average gross sales.
  • The brand-recording fee is increased from $120 to $132.
  • Applications to transfer a brand carries a $27.50 fee.
  • The transfer fee for "legacy brands," that have been in use for at least 25 years, is $100.

Livestock Identification Advisory Committee

Through July 1, 2023, Livestock Identification Advisory Committee membership is increased from six to 12 members with two members from each of the groups currently represented. No more than two members of the committee may reside in the same county. The committee must meet at least twice per year.

Veterinarian certification and field livestock inspectors

Veterinarians and others who apply to be certified to perform livestock inspections must submit an application and complete training. The bill requires WSDA to maintain a list of field livestock inspectors for at least six geographic regions who are certified to perform livestock inspections.

Training will include:

  • Reading of printed brands.
  • Reading of brands or other marks on animals, including the location of brands on animals.
  • Reading of an electronic ID or other electronic official individual identification of cattle.
  • Completion of official documents.
  • Review of satisfactory ownership documents.

WSDA may adopt fees to cover the costs associated with providing training. A certified veterinarian or a field livestock inspector is not considered a WSDA employee. Livestock inspection certification of certified veterinarians and field inspectors may be suspended or revoked under certain circumstances.

Electronic Cattle Transaction Reporting System

The use of the Electronic Cattle Transaction Reporting (ECTR) System, which is currently used only to report changes of ownership for unbranded dairy cattle, is expanded to all cattle. The ECTR system may be used to report transactions electronically as an alternative to mandatory inspections. ECTR may also be used to report the inspection of animals that are being moved out of state. Use of the ECTR system for reporting cattle ownership changes or out-of-state movement requires a WSDA license. All cattle that are reported in ECTR must have an official electronic individual identification tag.

WSDA may adopt ECTR application, licensing and reporting fees by rule. Fees must be adjusted by rule to match, as closely as practicable, amounts needed to cover ECTR system costs. If surplus ECTR revenues are generated because a substantial number of cattle owners use ECTR to report electronically, the current ECTR reporting fee of $1.30 per head will be reduced substantially by rule.

Moving toward modernizing cattle identification

On April 10, 2019, the USDA announced a phased transition to increased official electronic identification of cattle until official electronic identification becomes an industry-wide requirement at the beginning of 2023.

Coordinating a reassessment of the new LID program fee structure with the new federal policy is appropriate. Legislation will be required to extend LID program inspection activities beyond the July 2023 expiration. The ECTR fee section for reporting electronically identified cattle transactions does not expire.

Official electronic identification is a step forward for animal disease traceability, food safety, international trade, and the long-term economic viability of the livestock industry.

Expectations and uncertainties

Fee revenues are expected to cover program costs through July of 2023.  The new $4 fee rate on unidentified animals may be an incentive for producers to identify their animals at a lower fee. This creates some fiscal uncertainty because we don’t know which identification options producers will favor most. We do however expect the legislation to increase electronic official identification and help modernize Washington’s cattle identification system, supporting a more robust animal disease traceability program.

Going Forward

We will be closely monitoring how producers respond to the new fees and reforms to make sure program expenditures don’t exceed program revenues. We are hopeful that the new fee structure will provide sufficient revenue to bring the livestock inspection program back to solvency.

Email for questions on the new fees.