County opposes 4-H program | CraigDailyPress.com

County opposes 4-H program

Letter takes issue with proposed premise identification

Alexis DeLaCruz

Leellen Koroulis, top left, is strongly opposed to the state implementing a National Animal Identification System for 4-H and FFA families with livstock. Although the program is designed to help the state track communicable diseases, Koroulis thinks the program is invasive and unnecessary. Koroulis is pictured at her Clark ranch with her family and animals, from top left, Amber Blazek, Ed the horse, Andie Baker and Catharine Koroulis. Below are Bradley Blazek and Chester Black the sheep.

— Leellen Koroulis wouldn’t sign a bank loan without reading the fine print first.

Similarly, she says she wouldn’t want her children and grandchildren, who participate in Routt County’s 4-H programs, to be forced to participate in a premise identification program that would require all 4-H members to register their livestock with the state.

“Mandating 4-H and FFA families to register its properties as a premise is like telling someone they have to get a loan from a certain bank and then waiting to find out about the terms and conditions,” she said Tuesday. “You have no idea what you’re signing up for.”

Koroulis is a vocal critic of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Identification System. State officials are determining whether to make the program a state requirement for 2008. It currently is a voluntary program.

Colorado State University Extension Agent Jay Whaley said the program was developed in 2002 in response to European outbreaks of livestock disease in the 1990s. The program is designed to track communicable diseases among livestock and to create a unified national system of tracking those diseases, he said.

However, the program concerns some Routt County 4-H and FFA families, who say it is invasive and unnecessary.

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On Tuesday, the Routt County Board of Commissioners signed a letter to send to several local and state officials opposing the proposed premise identification program. The board made the decision after reviewing survey results from local families about the program and considering feedback from an August forum intended to educate the community about premise identification.

The commissioners’ letter stresses that the county supports promoting healthy livestock, and it also states the county has a local database to track such diseases.

“What we do not support is a mandatory, statewide premises registration program that singles out 4-H and FFA livestock when neither the USDA nor the Colorado Department of Agriculture requires mandatory premises for all livestock producers,” the letter reads.

Whaley said the program has three objectives, including registering where the animals live, using animal identification methods such as microchips, and tracing the animals if they are sold or moved across state lines.

That much governmental control over livestock is unacceptable to Koroulis.

“I believe you’re giving up property rights and personal freedoms,” she said.

Koroulis said she was thrilled the county took the position it did.

“It’s a very large issue to wrap your mind around,” she said. “It takes the time and desire to understand everything that’s going on. I’m very thankful they did.”

Whaley said local feedback about the premise identification program reveals that making it mandatory could affect 4-H enrollment.

“At this point, we don’t think this is the best thing for Routt County,” he said. “The bottom line is that we don’t want to lose a single kid from 4-H.”

The commissioners’ letter is being sent to Dr. Jeff Goodwin, director of Colorado 4-H; Deb Young, Colorado State University Extension Service director; Kenton Ochsner, Colorado FFA adviser; Gov. Bill Ritter; John Stulp, commissioner of agriculture; state Sen. Jack Taylor; and state Rep. Al White.

– To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com