Animal identification and traceability are critically important issues facing producers today. Country-of-origin labeling and food safety are equally important offshoots.

“Animal identification has become perhaps the most important issue in animal agriculture today,” according to Scott Stuart, chairman of the board for National Institute for Animal Agriculture, sponsor of last week’s 2007 ID Info Expo, held in Kansas City. “With this in mind, all industry stakeholders have some very important goals to accomplish as we move forward”.

USDA’s National Animal Identification System is the voluntary program designed to help protect the nation’s animal herd against a catastrophic disease outbreak, maintain consumer confidence by assuring a safe food supply and help maintain uninterrupted access to foreign markets. NAIS is the foundation and a vital first step to achieving these objectives.

“Traceability is the key component to animal disease protection-- to find it quickly, control it and eradicate it,” says John Clifford, APHIS deputy administrator for veterinary services. “Traceability is vital to our disease response abilities”.

“If you can’t locate (diseased) animals, what assurance can you give to other states, or to your trading partners that you can quickly locate and eradicate the diseases you find” Clifford adds. “That’s a problem, and it will continue to be a problem until all producers grasp this issue and take it on.”

During the United Kingdom’s experience with foot-and-mouth disease in August, the United States received daily reports on the events. The UK was immediately on top of the FMD outbreak and has thus far been able to contain it. Officials there were able to quickly reassure European trading partners that the situation was under control, and have been able to resume trade.

That is the same response trading partners will expect of U.S. animal industries because globalization of agriculture is here to stay. The industry must be prepared for an emergency disease outbreak and must be able to quickly find and reliably trace infected animals to prevent a catastrophic disease event in the United States such as the FMD outbreak that the UK faced in 2001.