It should come as little surprise that USDA's plan to create 48-hour traceback to identify and monitor animal disease issues in the United States hasn't gone smoothly. After all, animal agriculture hasn't done a great job of working together for the good of the whole in the past, and there is a huge range of peoples' personal beliefs and political stances that enter the dialogue.

Just this week, USDA is again trying to move its National Animal Identification System forward by releasing benchmarks to guide the program.

In order to improve disease traceability efforts, USDA is applying a business plan model to:

  • Identify weaknesses and opportunities
  • Establish benchmarks to measure success
  • Communicate a vision for the future of traceability

USDA's draft plan details the country's current traceability status, including a breakdown by species. It outlines seven strategies that agency officials say will offer the greatest traceability progress in a short amount of time. These strategies involve state- and federal animal-health programs as well as voluntary efforts and industry-based animal management and marketing programs.

An updated version of the National Animal Identification System User Guide, which replaces the November 2006 draft version, also came out this week. It includes public comments that USDA collected at hearing sessions.  The goal is for the User Guide to outline information about how NAIS works, how livestock producers use the system to use and why participation would benefit them and their animals.

The draft plan was published in the Dec. 19 Federal Register and is available. To submit comments on the plan or other aspects of the system, e-mail

Well, good luck with that. Even though USDA reports that there are 429,600 premises registered nationwide as part of NAIS -- "a substantial increase in the number of premises registered" -- there remains a vehement and organized NAIS opposition who won't easily be swayed.