SALEM, Ohio – Commercial hay producers soon may be among the growing list of sectors keeping detailed records and zeroing in on bioterrorism.
According to the bioterrorism act of 2002, the federal government says people who transport or distribute food have only a couple months left before they must keep detailed records.
Whether that food is going to humans or cows doesn’t matter; animal and pet feed is included in the Food and Drug Administration’s definition of “food.”
That’s where hay come into play.
The FDA specifically says farms are “excluded entirely,” but where do commercial hay producers fit in?
Despite nongovernmental reports saying they are required to comply, National Hay Association Executive Director Don Kieffer says no one from FDA has contacted him or any other national hay organization about these regulations and compliance dates.
The FDA did not return calls from Farm and Dairy to confirm if commercial hay producers are included in the definitions.
Should it be true, though, hay producers need to get moving, and quick.
For businesses with 11 or more employees, the compliance date is June 9, and it’s December for those with fewer than 11 workers.
‘It’s time.’ Other parts of the industry are going through animal identification and other record-keeping efforts, said William Kanitz, president of ScoringAg, a company specializing in traceback systems.
“Now it’s time for hay producers,” he said.
There are countless ways someone could introduce a bioterrorism agent through hay, even when the hauler breaks at a truck stop, he said.
This is about protection, Kanitz said. Not only would the government be able to locate the hay’s source and various stops within minutes, but farmers would be safeguarded.
Rather than freezing all shipments to and from a commercial hay producer and essentially shutting down the business, the government could home in on a specific farmer or a certain alfalfa field, he said.
“If there’s a problem, their records are the only thing between them and the problem,” Kanitz said.
Money and time. Would that mean identifying each of the 125,000 small bales and 2,000 large bales that go through Raymond Bricker’s operation each year?
That’s what the producer in Salem, Ohio, wonders.
It’s more than just an added cost, he said; it’s the time it’d take to put thousands of bar code stickers on all that hay.
“It all seems far-fetched that this could be enforced,” said Bricker, who is the past president of National Hay Association.
Part of the problem, Bricker and Kieffer agree, is that the only thing hay producers are hearing about these regulations is coming from companies who are trying to sell traceback equipment.
“Until we hear something official, we’re not falling over backward on this,” Kieffer said.
An end in sight? The regulations require names and contact information for sources, recipients and transporters; transportation routes; transfer points; dates; and details on the shipments.
They can be kept on paper or electronically, as long as FDA has access to it within 24 hours of when it asks.
“Where does it end?” asked another commercial hay producer, Larry Brogan of L.J. Hay near Kensington, Ohio. “There’s no end to it. Maybe they’ll be after straw next, or following a bushel of wheat or bag of oats.
“When I have to hire another secretary to keep up, I’ll take a hard look at my operation and see whether I should continue.”
(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 23 or by e-mail at email@example.com.)