The time has come. An open discussion on the USDA/CDCB Cooperative Agreement is on the front burner this morning during the Annual Meeting. Vice President Glenn Brown gave a synopsis of Holstein USA’s position. Included in his presentation were several areas of concern that Holstein Association USA has with the proposal, some of which are presented below:
- The basic premise of the agreement is flawed because the Cooperator (CDCB) is not set-up or funded to do what they are proposing to do.
- We cannot agree that phenotypic data will be controlled by the CDCB. Giving control to CDCB strips PDCA, DHIA and DRPC of their essential responsibilities.
- Biological material – we can’t agree that genetic data and this material would be controlled by CDCB.
- AIPL can’t conduct genetic evaluations without CDCB authorization – will we be sacrificing checks & balances?
- Selling semen would have an inherent conflict of interest – they should not be part of deteming what genetic information would be published
- The proposed agreement suggests the CDCB will control what USDA can publish
- Based on the financials that have been provided, each sector of the CDCB will be providing start-up monies and may have other budget responsibilities. This means, in part, that Holstein USA will pay 90% of the PDCA portion and over 20% of the DRPC portion. Our financial obligation will be higher than any other CDCB member
Holstein USA would like to keep the genetic evaluation program at USDA and the advantages far out-weight the disadvantages. Holstein would be willing to pay an annual fee for USDA part in the genetic evaluation program if funding is really at the root of the issue.
Panel discussion will now include -
Dr. Ben Dorshorst – Following up on a letter that was posted on HolsteinWorld.com on May 23, 2012 (http://www.holsteinworld.com/story.php?id=6468 ). Dr. Dorshorst shared a few concerns – including – 1) If a farmer is paying for testing, he should have access to data. 2) In the agreement, it states that females will have no extra cost beyond cost of running snp chips. Males will cost extra and must be enrolled in NAAB. We need to develop pricing scheme that encourages participation and evens the playing field. I think we need to have equal testing fees for males and females. Higher costs for males will inhibit some farmers from testing their own bulls. Our goal as an industry should be to provide better tools. We shouldn’t structure the system to the advantage of companies at the expense of the farmer. 3) Information should be freely available to animal owners – that needs to be part of the agreement. 4) A genomic evaluation for an animal should always be available if tested, regardless of age. 5) Genetic merit information should be available for free on a website, as it currently is. It will show the sophistication of our system and what we have to offer.
Roy Buessing, dairy producer from Kansas – Agree with what Vice President Brown presented this morning. This is an industry of what we care passionately about. Animals in sales sometimes sell with no production records, or sell out of GP dams with low records. Where are we going? Who has benefited from all these changes in the last five years? Not the dairy producer. This issue is all about trust, but lately changes have not helped us. Who’s the real user of the data? Breeders have not had access to information on their own bulls for the last five years. That bothers me. As your board representative, I have to ask you this question – how can I represent you and give all of our data and information to a group that has no money, no checkbook, no office and assume they will come up with a system that the world will be envious of. It can’t be done. Breeding great cows takes generations and time. We can’t rush that – we shouldn’t rush this.
Leroy Eggink, dairy producer from Iowa – Countless hours have been spent on this issue. The number one issue is following the money trail. Where is the money coming from to pay for this? This going into a private entity. Now we want to close off access to our information? Let’s keep this at USDA. We can still make that work if that’s what we really desire. Never say never. This is a time we shouldn’t sit back and let something happen to us. We need to make our voice heard and not give away control of something that belongs to us. Otherwise, we’ll be paying the bill in the end.
John Andersen, dairy producer from Idaho – Going to offer a little different perspective on this issue. It’s quite obvious that the way our data has been presented in the past is a very good option to continue, if that’s a possibility. If Holstein can convince USDA to keep going, that would be advantageous. I’ve tried to listen and hear all sides of the issue while formulating my own opinion moving forward. Breeders and A.I. companies both play an important part in all this. We need to protect the integrity of the data first and foremost. As far as fees for testing – I was happy to see that there would be no additional fees for testing females because we’ll likely test more females than males. On the male side, fees are reasonable and we must get the money from somewhere to fund this. Extra fees for bulls over 15 months of age also seems reasonable. Those will be the people that profit most from those age bulls that go into further service. We choose to accept new technology and move forward together as one united industry. We might have to make some concessions and work to get over our trust issues. I applaud Holstein for asking the questions and getting the discussion started.
President Chuck Worden, New York – Our unbiased nature makes us the gold standard of data collection around the world. We don’t want to lose that. I think it’s very important that we need to maintain a structure that allows us to do that.
Former Holstein USA President Randy Gross, Washington – Had we known years ago that we would not have access to genomic information I don’t think we would have easily agreed to things as we did. That’s when the trust issue was broken in my mind. I’m concerned about the proposal, especially with a limited input from actual dairy producers. The agreement will affect all dairy farmers, and ultimately paid for by them, but will not put their interests first. Little specific information is available for how this system will be paid for. Pass it first and then you’ll find out what’s in the agreement….? The agreement must treat all service users equally, ie fees being able to be paid by only A.I. companies. I cann’t support the draft agreement. While the industry is changing rapidly, but it’s not acceptable to limit the control and access to information by a few, while it’s being paid for by many. The business plan is not a business plan. It makes reference to a number of things, but as a producer, I haven’t had access to the specific points that would allow me to further understand this. No where does it show who’s in charge of the money, how it will be spent, etc. What does it cost USDA to run this? Private industry should be able to operate things more inexpensively than the government, but we haven’t seen exact figures and plans on that. If USDA is no longer doing the evaluations, shouldn’t they be charged for access to the data as we are? When I was on the board, we funded some of this early research. Had we known the limited access we have to this information, I have a hard time believing we would have supported it in the beginning.
Concerns from the floor (with delegates given first option to comment):
Mark Kerndt, Iowa – Can Holstein put concerns available on website? (answer – yes). Personally, I don’t have a problem if we stay with USDA, but I do have a problem with keeping a status quo. I’m not comfortable with non-contributors having access to our database. Any thoughts to changing that? (answer – discussions will continue as what could be done – is there any chance of keeping it at USDA? If not – we’ll have to keep looking at other options. Whatever we do – we must keep the gold standard of an evaluation program.) Are you comfortable with letting non-contributors have access? (answer – we have not discussed that yet).
Kent Buttars, Utah – With regard to Randy’s comments on business plan. I know the plan has taken a lot of hits, but John & Chuck both have been supplied with all the information necessary. The Council just released a summary of the plan, but there is a detailed account of the budget and future funding. Much more detail is available. (answer – yes, that is correct. We do have a full document that was sent to the Board).
Jill Nelson, Minnesota – Talked about open disclosure and whether foreign countries should have access to our information. If this had been in place 10 years ago, how would that affect what foreign bulls we currently have access to? Will it affect our relationship with other countries. And also – why wouldn’t I want my information want to go to other entities – ie A.I., pharmaceutical, universities, etc….why shouldn’t they get that info? (answer – don’t have an answer on the first question. Regarding the second question – if people don’t contribute any data to the system, they have the cheapest semen available it seems).
Don Bennick, Florida – Dave Selner asked Dr. Steve Kappas in an article in HolsteinWorld – is it possible to calculate genetic evaluations by the industry group that uses them? USDA says they don’t have staff to do the evaluations? Do we want them to do evaluations if they don’t want to or can’t? We need to improve the reliability of genomics and the only way to do that is more research. Holstein is a relatively small player in this in the big scheme of the industry. Thirty-five other member cooperative groups have all agreed with the position that we need to make a change. They all support the cooperative agreement. We are one versus 35 others. If we don’t get on board – we’re just 5-7% of the milk production population – so we might get left behind. You’re going to politicians without considering the wishes of us as breeders. Holstein needs to support the dairymen. (answer – we must evaluate facts as they are and sometimes if we need to stand on our own, we will. We contacted Senator Leahy to find out about a business plan, because there wasn’t one in place at the time. We were not signing an agreement with a plan).
Dave Bitler, Pennsylvania – Looking ahead, should a system be formed so that USDA continues to provide scientists that do research or will the Council have to find these scientists? And how is that factored in? What personnel are needed to run this if not done by USDA? (answer – idea of the business plan is that there would be a designated staff, along with a general manager and staff members. In theory, USDA would still have researchers on staff that would do that. Concerns with privatization – AIPL produces an evaluation for the industry – that has always been the shining star of the department. What happens if evaluations are privatized – would there still be genetic research done? The intent is that research will still go on).
Linda Hodorff, Wisconsin – I contacted USDA earlier this week to ask some questions of my own. Dr. George Wiggans returned my call as the spokesman from the department. No one from USDA is here during this discussion, so I have quotes from him to share. 1. ARS is a research organization not a service one, so they will continue with research. 2. Industry needs to evolve. 3. It’s not privatization – it is a natural evolution. 4. It is the responsibility of our industry to negotiate access to data.
Jason Myers, Maryland – I’m very disappointed with the meeting – this should have started yesterday so we had time to discuss things last night. As a breeder, I can compete against foreigners and I have no problem competing on a level playing field. As an association we should welcome the competition from afar. Personally, A.I. has a lot more to benefit from this than do I as a breeder.
Bob Knutsen, Maryland – If we support USDA to continue, what can we do as dairymen to keep things as status quo? (answer – contact officials in Washington).
Bill Genasci, California – I understand wanting to stay with USDA, but if we’re going to move forward, we need to keep our options open. Somehow we got to a “it’s us against them” – and we need to make sure to work together.
Dave Thorbahn, Ohio – It’s in the business plan that foreign countries would have access to information, but would pay to have the right to see our database. That would help fund the process. From a Select Sires perspective, we are a farmer owned cooperative. We want open dialog with all sectors involved. Fighting among ourselves doesn’t help. The issue we need to solve is to have the gold standard of evaluations in the world. Fighting is spending money that’s not necessary. We shouldn’t restrict our opportunity for other organizations to use the data, but it shouldn’t be at the detriment of breeders. We need to make sure the data keeps flowing. If you don’t contribute, you should pay higher fees. We must be willing to disagree, but we have to be committed to one goal. As seedstock producers to commercial dairies – how do make our advantage bigger and make our animals more valuable? We spend 3 million a year in cash to ultimately provide data to do SET programs and make sure DHI gets the necessary information.
Hank Van Exel, California – We made a bad decision five years ago to limit our access to data. I looked at the business plan – and we’ve put the cart way ahead of the horse. It comes down to a trust issue. What if this business plan doesn’t work? Who owns it? Where does it go? Whoever owns the information owns the power. I want this information to be right – and I want everyone to work together. Let’s get a business plan that makes sense and then we go forward. I know the sun will rise in April 2013.
Betsy Bullard, Maine – I’m a little confused on what happens going forward. Is there some desire for continued discussion and work? I’d like to continue this process. We’re not done yet. Which route are we taking? Is there a timeline? (answer – when we made our concern known, we haven’t got what we wanted yet. If we don’t make a decision by a certain date, the Council will move on without you. Those are the types of “threats” we’ve heard of. If we’re going to build a gold standard, than let’s do it right. First and foremost, we need to unbiased in our approach).
Barry England, Pennsylvania – If it takes years to build trust, it takes seconds to lose it. In the end – we have to all start growing up a bit and look at this business plan in a different way. We need to work within our organization. I’ve already called our congressmen in our area, and I will follow up with him next week. Holstein should keep working with A.I. and DHI together. We have to remember where we’ve been and make sure what we’re working for in the future is right for all of us. We must think in terms of tomorrow.
Dick Witter, Pennsylvania – Great discussion today and in the halls yesterday. A.I. failed to communicate what had taken place before. I think if the majority of people in this room understood everything, we would be better off. It was beneficial to all of us. I would like to see information shared with everyone because it will only benefit all of us in the long run. I really respect Dave Thorbahn coming to the microphone. But I respect them for being the one big organization that wants to see validation of genomics. We need to be able to verify genomic info in the future. I would love to see us all come together. Let’s start today to create a business plan that makes sense for everyone.
Gordon Wood, Pennsylvania – Randy Gross mentioned very well about Farm Credit, and I have a personal financial hat too. I would really like to say that back home and earlier here this week, I heard that “they” were going to jam this thing through. The Board has done a wonderful job getting date collected and an open discussion presented. We’re not ready for anything yet, but you’re on the right track.
Renee McCauley, Michigan – I was told yesterday that Holstein wasn’t cooperating on this discussion. We should be proud of our Board for the amount of time they’ve spent on this. We hope that our other partners are open to hearing our concerns.
Dan Cnossen, Wisconsin – A point brought up earlier was our type evaluation program by the Council. The breed associations are the ones who keep the integrity of the program.
If there are more thoughts, please contact the Board directly. Comments are appreciated and accepted!
1. Change to Bylaw – Officers and their Duties – new section to read ‘If there are less than two declared candidates for a Regional Director election who have filed a conflict of interest disclosure statement with the Executive Secretary by March 1 of the election year, that Regional Director position shall become an at-large position for two terms unless the position is held by an incumbent.
Corey Geiger, board member, moved for acceptance of this bylaw amendment.
Vote was close – and needed a standing vote as voice vote was too close to call. Motion carried 59-46.
2. Holstein USA encourages USDA to continue performing dairy genetic evaluations for the dairy industry.
Submitted by PA Holstein Association – the Board is in favor.
The resolution is adopted
3. Holstein USA will work cooperatively with CDCB to develop and present a cost effective, thorough, reliable system to collect data and process evaluations currently calculated by USDA-AIPL. (Linda Hodorff – this resolution does not include a timeline – we need to take time to work through all points. The strength of U.S. genetics is due to industry cooperation – breed associations, DHI and A.I. If we take any “legs” away from this stool, we will be at a disadvantage.) Alan Hostetter of PA asked why the Board didn’t approve. Vice President Brown said it was just a “feel good” resolution – didn’t provide much direction.
Dan Cnossen of WI spoke to that – while it might be vague, it carries more meat. We don’t want Holstein to get away from the table.
Bill Genasci of CA – if we don’t pass this, it sounds like we don’t want to cooperate
Submitted by WI Holstein Association
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