As an industry, pork producers support a mandatory National Animal Indentification System. Of course, not all other specie industries agree. There's actually quite a bit of apprehension about the idea. 

USDA officials have indicated that they'd prefer a mandatory approach because the program's priority is to ensure the health of the U.S. animal herd, and that's less likely to be successful if the program remains voluntary.

A legitimate concern behind some people's apprehension comes from the fact that a mandatory NAIS program would– or could– bring with it some confidentiality challenges with the related information databases.

However, just last week USDA Undersecretary Bill Hawks told the livestock industry that mandatory participation would not be put in place until all confidentially issues were resolved. He did, however, cite 2009 has the Administration's goal to make NAIS mandatory.   

Hawks spoke at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture's annual meeting last week.

Regarding the confidentiality issue, the Bush Administration has sent a bill to Congress that would exempt data collected for NAIS from the Freedom of Information Act. Hawks urged the industry to actively support this legislation.    

He noted that Congress has received the NAIS progress report, and that he expected that the $33 million NAIS operating funds for the current Fiscal Year would be released soon. 

Neil Hammerschmidt, NAIS coordinator for USDA, said various field trials are underway and that 45 states have voluntary premises identification programs in place. So far, more than 50,000 premises have been registered across the country.

USDA will publish the NAIS Strategic Plan in the Federal Register in the near future.  He urges the various industry segments to review the plan carefully and make appropriate comments and recommendations.