A new animal identification proposal has surfaced out of the halls of USDA, specifically from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The newly proposed rule is designed to establish general regulations for improving the traceability of U.S. livestock moving interstate when animal disease events surface.

Under the proposed rule, unless specifically exempted, livestock that is moved interstate would be required to be identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner/shipper statements or brand certificates. So the program would be mandatory upon implementation, unlike the voluntary National Animal Identification System (NAIS) program.  Other elements include: 1) it would be administered by the states and tribal nations to provide more flexibility; 2) encourage the use of lower-cost technology; and 3) be implemented transparently through federal regulations and the full rule-making process.

“In the past two years, I have listened carefully to stakeholders throughout the country about how to reach effective animal disease traceability in a transparent manner without additional burden,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We are proposing a flexible approach in which states and tribes can develop systems for tracing animals that work best for them and for producers in their jurisdiction. This approach offers great flexibility at the state and local level and addresses gaps in our disease response efforts.”

It is worth noting that U.S. pork producers have had an animal identification system in place since 1987. In fact, the pork industry as a whole has long supported the further identification of all farm animals in the effort to protect the nation’s livestock herd from foreign and emerging diseases. “Approximately 95 percent of pork producer’s premises are already registered under the USDA livestock identification program,” points out National Pork Producers Council officials.

Animal identification also is a trade and export market protection measure. As NPPC points out, “an effective traceability system is critical to the national animal health infrastructure and is required for certification by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).”

Doug Wolf, NPPC president, adds, “An effective traceability program would allow U.S. pork to compete more effectively in the international marketplace with those countries that have already implemented traceability programs.” U.S. pork exports are increasingly important to U.S. producers as this year sales are on pace to account for more than 22 percent of total annual production.  

“Our proposal strives to meet the diverse needs of the animal agriculture industry and our State and tribal partners, while also helping us all reach our goal of increased animal disease traceability,” said chief veterinary officer for the United States, John Clifford, DVM. “We believe reaching our goals on traceability will help save the industry and American taxpayer’s money in the long term.”

Animal disease traceability, or knowing where diseased and at-risk animals are, where they’ve been, and under what timeline, is important to ensure there can be a rapid response when animal disease events take place, USDA contends. An efficient and accurate animal disease traceability system helps reduce the number of animals involved in an investigation, reduces the time needed to respond, and decreases the cost to producers and the government.

“The proposed rule that USDA revealed today is a step in the right direction for animal disease traceability. We recognize that this will not prevent disease, but it does create a systematic approach to allow for swift response when there are issues,” says Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union president. “The ability to trace, track and quarantine livestock during a disease outbreak will help minimize the economic impact it will have on the agriculture industry and rural America.”  NFU has supported leaving the animal identification requirements for disease management to the states.

 In general, proposals for widespread animal identification programs have meet with tremendous controversy, particularly when it involved any hint of a mandatory measure. USDA had previously proposed an all-encompassing ruling, which was struck down due to lack of approved funding. USDA followed by holding a series of listening sessions across the United States to gather feedback from U.S. livestock industry participants.

The notice for this latest USDA proposal will be published in the Aug. 11 Federal Register.

USDA is asking for comments through Nov. 9. Interested parties may submit comments by either of the following methods: Federal eRulemaking Portal; or through Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery to Docket No. APHIS-2009-0091, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

Supporting documents and any comments that USDA receives on this docket may be viewed on line www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2009-0091 or in USDA’s reading room, which is located in room 1141 of the USDA South Building, 14th Street and Independence Ave., SW., Washington, DC, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. To facilitate entry into the comment reading room, please call (202) 690-2817.

Listen to audio coverage of the USDA news conference from AgriTalk Radio

Source: USDA