Nebraska’s 76-year-old Brand Act has come under criticism for being burdensome and outdated. This week a group of feedlot operators filed a suit seeking to declare the Brand Act unconstitutional and prevent the state from enforcing it.
The Lincoln Journal Star reports the Nebraska Beef Producers Committee, a nonprofit group representing cattle producers with feedlots across the state, filed a civil complaint against the Nebraska Brand Committee and executive director William Bunce in U.S. District Court on Tuesday.
"The evolution of the cattle industry has rendered the regulatory scheme codified in the Brand Act ineffectual and obsolete in its ability to protect the interests originally intended by the Legislature," Lincoln attorney Katherine Spohn told the Journal Star.
Feedlot operators claim the Brand Act was established when cattle theft on western Nebraska ranches was of significant concern. The law designated roughly the western two-thirds of Nebraska as a brand inspection area, requiring cattle being moved outside the area or within in it to be inspected.
Today, producers claim, those regulations lead to weight loss on cattle while they wait for inspectors to verify the brands. Some delays can be avoided by feedlots which are registered, but that increases costs.
The Nebraska Brand Committee has about 100 employees, led by Bunce, Alliance, Neb. The inspectors record brands and inspect cattle to verify ownership and investigate missing livestock.
Spohn told the Journal Star members of the NBPC view the brand inspection costs as a burden, with some operations paying “between $75,000 and $90,000 in brand inspection fees for 2016.” She said the evolution of the cattle industry has rendered the act ineffectual and obsolete, and she said the Brand Act puts an excessive burden on interstate commerce for those buying and selling cattle in and out of the Nebraska brand area.