As WCA members know, the Brand Program at WSDA has been running in the red, as revenues have not kept pace with expenses. The state Office of Financial Management has notified the department that if that program does not have a plan in place to bring the program in to the black, then they will need to shut it down.

WCA has been working hard to solve the issue and brought forward ideas to bring financial stability and accountability to the Brand program. There have been several meetings held with stakeholders representing all segments of the industry, with the most recent meeting being held in December at WCA headquarters in Ellensburg. Senator Judy Warnick and Representative Tom Dent chaired the December meeting and worked with everyone at the table to come up with a plan to save the Brand Program. It’s a tough issue to solve and there isn’t anyone in the business whose pocketbook won’t be touched.

Although I’m sure you’ve heard frustrations that it has been taking longer than expected to get a solution in to bill form, we went over the first bill draft last night. It’s not perfected yet, so please keep in mind that this is a draft and is able to be changed. However, based on financial spreadsheets, we believe this brings the Brand program in to the black and creates a new governance structure for accountability.

Here’s a current summary of where it’s at now: 


·     Repeals the livestock identification advisory committee and replaces it with the Washington state livestock identification board.

·     The seven voting members are appointed by the director: two beef producers, one cattle feeder, one dairy producer, one livestock market owner, one meat packer, and one horse producer. No more than two members may reside in the same county. 

·     The board is responsible for the administration of the livestock identification program including review and registration of brands, administration of inspection and enforcement activities, employment of personnel, fee setting and holding hearings and adopting rules necessary to administer the program.

·     The board must contract with the Department of Agriculture for livestock inspection, investigation work, and brand registration until June 30, 2029. Beginning July 1, 2029, the board may contract with the department or other entities to provide such registration, livestock inspection, or investigation work. 

·     The board is authorized to provide for a central location in the state for its administrative offices.

·     The bill establishes that the application to transfer a legacy brand must be accompanied by a $100 recording fee. "Legacy brand" is defined as a brand that has been in use for at least twenty-five years.

·     The electronic cattle transaction reporting system is expanded to all cattle, with the language that the system may be used as an alternative to mandatory inspections retained. Provisions are clarified so that the electronic cattle transaction reporting system can used to report change of ownership transactions.

·     The fees for inspection are increased by 5% and the time and mileage fee is replaced with a $15 call out fee. The fee for cattle that is unbranded or does not have an electronic identification is $5.00 per head. The department may charge time and mileage if a department employee does the livestock inspection. There are provisions for a fee increase of 2% annually if the board determines an increase is necessary. The fee for livestock markets is increased from $100 to $200.

·     The department must maintain a list of field livestock inspectors and the board may adopt rules related to field livestock inspectors. An applicant who wishes to perform field livestock inspections must submit an application to the board that includes their name, address, telephone number, and email address; the geographic area in which they will issue inspection certificates; a statement describing the applicant's experience with large animals and indicating whether the applicant will issue inspection certificates for cattle, horses or both. A field livestock inspector must complete training provided by the board or the department at the discretion of the board. Training will include, but will not be limited to, the:

·     Reading of printed brands and brands or other marks on animals, including the location of brands on animals;

·     Reading a unique electronic identification of cattle under the electronic cattle transaction reporting system;

·     Completion of official documents; and

·     Review of satisfactory ownership documents.

•The provisions relating to certified veterinarians performing livestock inspections are amended such that a veterinarian must provide similar information on their application and complete similar training as field livestock inspectors. Provisions allowing the director to adopt rules and fees to cover the cost associated with certification are repealed.