HB254: Livestock branding amendments take on definitions and consequences

By Maren McInnes
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Livestock Branding Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, would define livestock emergencies, address the trade of livestock on websites, and propose new penalties to discourage theft of livestock.

During a Feb. 13 hearing on the amendments, there was some confusion on the definition of a “livestock emergency,” but Noel has since addressed the issue and drafted a substitute bill. In a second hearing on Feb. 18, a revised bill defined a livestock emergency as “the presence of a contagious, infectious, or transmissible disease risk to livestock.” Natural disasters, like fire, flood, or earthquake, said Noel, are also included as livestock emergencies. If the Department of Agriculture declares a livestock emergency based on these parameters, a person transporting cattle or calves may be required to participate in a brand inspection, he said. 

Rep. Noel, R-Kanab

Rep. Noel, R-Kanab

HB 254 also takes on the matter of livestock marketing. Changes in technology have led to new means of trading livestock. Redgie Johnson, of Cedar Livestock Market in Cedar City, told the committee that many traditional, in-person sales are now taking place online. The “Internet will be the way of [the] future,” said Johnson, whose market dates to the 1940s.

Noel’s bill will require websites advertising livestock to display the following message: “Legality of Sales and Purchase, Health Laws. If you sell or purchase livestock on this site, you shall comply will all applicable legal requirements governing the transfer and shipment of livestock, including Utah Code Title 4, Chapter 25, Utah Livestock Brand and Anti-Theft Act, and Title 4, Chapter 31, Control of Animal Disease. Please contact the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food at 801-538-7137 with any questions.”

Noel also expressed concern over livestock theft. A lost calf used to mean that the mother lost it or a mountain lion got it, but that has changed, he said.  “When I lose a calf, the first thing I think about is did someone steal that calf? Did someone walk off with that calf? Because they’re so dang expensive now.” HB254 would make any person who violates any portion of the Utah Livestock Brand and Anti-Theft Act of the Utah Code “guilty of a class B misdemeanor” and subject to a fine of up to $1,000 per violation.

Cody James, a Livestock Inspection Bureau director at the Utah Department of Agriculture & Food, has been working with Noel on this bill. “What we are trying to do here is still allow people to travel with their livestock without us inhibiting them,” said James, but we also need to ensure that the state’s livestock is protected from disease and theft, he continued.

The House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee voted unanimously to give a favorable recommendation on HB254.  The bill would amend Utah Code Title 4, Chapter 24, Section 16.

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