USDA officials and animal agriculture representatives set priorities and discussed new strategies for animal identification and traceability at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture's annual meeting held Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo. USDA announced in February that it was going to scrap the National Animal Identification System in favor of a new state-based system.

Representatives from the beef, dairy, horse, sheep and pork industries expressed concerns and suggested priorities as a replacement for the defunct NAIS is shaped. In addition, representatives from American Meat Institute and a livestock marketing agency stated their views.

Input from Wednesday's meeting will be key to reshaping and defining USDA's role in developing new national animal identification efforts. John Clifford, DVM, USDA's chief veterinary officer, said follow-up meetings will be conducted this week that will help redefine the U.S. animal identification and traceability system.

According to the industry representatives, priorities for a new state-led animal identification system include development of uniform ID standards that apply across all states, ability for the system to move at 'speed-of-commerce', as well as availability of USDA funding for the effort. Minimizing producer costs and confidentiality also are important, according to some.

The pork industry is leading on the animal identification and traceability issue and has always supported a mandatory animal identification system. "About 87 percent of swine farms are now identified with a premise identification number," according to Patrick Webb, DVM, director of swine health programs for the National Pork Board. "We have integrated the (animal identification) effort into our Pork Quality Assurance Plus industry standard, and premise identification is fully implemented as part of our PQA Plus site asessment program. We've made a lot of progress."

"Rapid and effective pre-harvest traceability is a foundation for trade and commerce in the pork industry," says Webb. "A standardized ID plan across all states is vitally important to us."

Animal identification in herds of all sizes is important to the dairy industry, says Karen Jordan, DVM, Dairy Farmers of America. "We need an effective animal tracing system and we've needed it for several years." Jordan suggests an effective animal identification and traceability system be rapidly developed for a few key dairy states that could then be rolled out to other states. "Effective traceability is needed quickly."

For the beef sector, minimizing the producer cost of animal identification is a primary concern, according to Kelli Ludlum, American Farm Bureau Federation spokesperson addressing the group on behalf of the U.S. beef industry. In addition, "we strongly believe that any information relative to cattle identification remain under the control of state animal health officials and be kept confidential."

Other animal identification and traceability issues that must be considered are preserving and maintaining domestic as well as export demand for U.S.-produced meat, says Scott Goltry, vice president, food safety and inspection services, American Meat Institute. "The availability of global markets is key and sometimes overlooked in the animal identification and traceability system. AMI supports the development of a mandatory national animal identification and traceability system that would allow producers, processors and regulators to trace food animals to point of origin and date of birth."