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January 17, 2008 Issue

Performance review completed
Big show in Bartow
USDA addresses animal disease control on farms across the state

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Performance review completed

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Because of noncompliance issues with the Jefferson County’s 2006 tax digest, the county received a consent order from the Georgia Department of Revenue. In order to best comply with portions of that order the county requested a peer review.

The report from that review, conducted last week, is not expected to be complete for several weeks, according to Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan.

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“The Georgia Department of Revenue has completed its onsite peer review of the county’s tax assessor’s office,” Bryan said. “Findings are being consolidated and will be reviewed by the Georgia DOR Commissioner prior to release to county officials. It is expected that the county will have the results in hand by the end of January.”

Bryan said the county’s goal in requesting the review was to independently determine the needs and any shortcomings in the tax assessor’s office in order to better comply with the specific issues addressed in the consent order.

“They interviewed all individuals with working knowledge of different aspects of the department,” Bryan said. “They audited the data within the department to ensure compliance of established policies and of accurate data input.”

The review board consisted of one Georgia DOR employee, Joseph D. Wright; William F. Griffin, chairman of the Lee County Board of Tax Assessors; and Darryl Gray, Chief Appraiser of the Emanuel County Board of Tax Assessors, according to Charles Willey, director of public information with the Georgia DOR.

The panel interviewed county commissioners; the county’s board of assessors; the county’s board of equalization; George Rachels and all assessor staff; Bryan; Jefferson County tax commissioner, Jenny Gordy; auditor Mark Davis of Jones, Jones and Davis; Mickey Moses, the county attorney; and a citizen, according to Bryan.

Those interviews were conducted last week, Bryan said, adding that no results were revealed at this time.

Willey said performance reviews are conducted by request from a local government. He said the three-member panels include one state DOR employee.

“The other two are assessors … that we have confidence in, that they have knowledge of how an assessor’s office should operate and so forth,” Willey said. “They will draft their report and then it will go to Vickie Lambert (of the Georgia DOR). Then to the commissioner.”

Willey said it should take about four weeks after the onsite review to draft a report, submit it and correct or clarify whatever is needed before the report is finalized.



Big show in Bartow

Special Report

Producer – Director Robert Ray who appeared last January in the smash-hit “Two for Broadway” brings his most popular show “Too Marvelous for Words” with music by Harold Arlen and Henry Mancini and Hoagy Carmichael and words by Johnny Mercer to the Schoolhouse Players theater at the Bartow Community Center for two nights only, Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. and Jan. 26 at 8 p.m.

The show has been a sell-out hit in Atlanta at The Highlands Playhouse, at The Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston and at Macon’s Cherry Blossom Festival.

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The show stars three of Atlanta’s top cabaret performers – Robert Ray, Shawn Megorden and Marsha Dupree.

Beautiful costumes, a 5-piece band and songs like “Jeepers Creepers,” “Blues in the Night,” “Old Black Magic,” “Goody, Goody,” “I Wanna Around,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” and “Moon River” are but a few of the familiar songs you can expect to hear.

Sponsored by the George E. Crouch Foundation and Old Town Plantation and Retreat, this show brings premier entertainment to our area. Robert Ray and Emmy winner Joseph Litsch wrote this show to follow the life of lyricist Johnny Mercer from his youth in Savannah, through a career that earned him 18 Academy Award nominations and four wins and focuses on his collaborations with top musical writers.

Please call 478-364-3340 to make reservations. The price is $15 per person.



USDA addresses animal disease control on farms across the state

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

In an attempt to better track the source of disease-causing beef, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed a voluntary program to tag cattle.

Art Rider, president of Jefferson County Cattlemen’s Association, explained that currently there is no way to determine the source of contaminated beef.

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“I raise my cattle,” he said. “I have several options on where I can sell my cattle. I can take them to a local stockyard; I can sell them there. Or I can sell them directly to a feed lot.”

Generally a producer sells young cattle up to a year old to a stockyard, according to Rider. Those cattle weigh between 700 to 900 pounds. Those cattle are then sold to a feed lot.

“The purpose of a feed lot is to put those cattle on special corn fed rations to fatten the cattle up to packer weight requirements, which is about 1,200 pounds,” he said. “Some of the packing companies have their own feed lots. Once the cattle reach the target weight, the packing company purchases the cattle from the feed lot or, if the packing company has its own feed lot, then they are processed. Then the packer company will sell it to the grocery chains.”

Rider said there is a mixing of the cattle in the stockyard and again at the feedlot as it is not practical to keep the cattle separated.

“That is the nightmare the ID tag is supposed to alleviate,” he said.

According to a press release the U.S. Department of Agriculture released late last month, they have contracted with three manufacturers produce 1.5 million radio frequency identification ear tags compliant with National Animal Identification System standards.

The cost of these three contracts is $1.7 million, according to the U.S.D.A. “The ear tags will be used specifically for U.S.D.A. state-federal cooperative disease control and eradication efforts, such as bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis and will be distributed in geographic areas which are determined to be of increased risk for disease outbreak or spread,” the press release stated.

According to Bruce Knight, under secretary for USDA’s marketing and regulatory programs, this effort helps the department reach a long-term goal of being able to trace an animal within 48 hours during a disease outbreak.

“Production and distribution of these National Animal Identification System compliant tags for existing program and disease uses will make it easier for state and federal officials to trace production animals to their source in the event of a disease outbreak or animal health emergency,” Knight said.

According to the press release, the ear tags will use radio frequency identification device technology, which will allow producers and animal health officials to electronically identify and store information contained on a tag attached to an animal. This will greatly increase the efficiency of an animal disease investigation involving tracing of exposed and potentially infected animals.

The radio frequency identification technology also increases the accuracy of information collected from the tags attached to animals of interest.

The manufacturers are under contract to produce the ear tags are Allflex USA Inc. of Texas, Digital Angel Corp. of Minnesota and Global Animal Management of New Jersey. The average cost per unit to USDA for the bulk purchase is approximately $1.13 per tag.

The National Animal Identification System consists of three components, premises registration, animal identification and tracing. The premises registration component of the system ensures the availability of a nationwide communications network to assist livestock owners and animal health officials in the event of an animal disease event. More than 420,000 premises nationwide have been registered to date, according to the USDA.

According to Alan York of the USDA Service Center in Louisville, a tracking process first became considered because of mad cow disease and other diseases that are transferable between animals.

“As of right now, it’s strictly voluntary,” Rider said. “What’s mandatory is a premise ID. Premise ID is where the beef producer has the cattle on the farm, on the actual land that the cattle are raised on. The ID for individual cattle was going to be mandatory but they scaled that back because of funding and how hard that would be to implement.”

Rider said the cattlemen will have to pay for the tags, which he thinks will be about $2.

“The thinking behind the individual animal, even though it’s not mandatory right now, the thinking is that the market will drive each cattleman to have their cattle individually tagged,” he said. Rider said this would be for safety and source verification, when the animal was born and where it was raised, for example.

“A lot of companies are brand driven,” he said. “That is, you have companies, brands that advertise lean beef. I know you’ve seen in the supermarkets Angus beef and it’s been advertised as tender and lean and that’s one way to tell the difference between Angus beef and another breed of cattle,” he said.

More companies would be able to advertise how their beef is raised, for example in a natural way or only grass fed.

“In order to be able to say that they would have to know their source of cattle,” he said. “There are pros and cons for everything. I think it will become an economically driven process. It may take a few years to implement but at some point the consumer is going to want to know where the beef came from, how it was raised and things like that. Things that matter to the mom and dad feeding their kids. Things that allow a grocery store to promote the qualities of one beef product over another.”

Rider said consumers already are starting to want to know these things and, in order for sellers to state anything about their products, they have to be able to verify that information. “This will allow the producers to be able to do that. It will promote consumer confidence about the product, and not just being able to track bad beef to the source,” he said. “If I want to get a good price for my product, I’m going to have to do it (tag the cattle) sooner or later. But that’s just me personally.”




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