Plans for the National Animal Identification System was the centerpiece for last week's ID/INFO EXPO 2004, a conference offering the latest animal identification information.  Facilitated by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, the three-day event involved 500 industry and government stakeholders interested in the development of a national identification system for U.S. animal agriculture.

"This is a culmination of two years' work on a national system," said Rick Sibbel, NIAA chairman of the board. "The evolution of the U.S. Animal Identification Plan is clearly moving forward, with the involvement of multiple species in a system that will help further safeguard the health of animal agriculture."

Key presenters from the conference included USDA Under Secretary Bill Hawks, newly appointed USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service deputy administrator for Veterinary Services John Clifford, and Bret Marsh, state veterinarian for the Indiana Board of Animal Health.  Also included in the presentations were a series of reports from species and issues working groups. These groups have been gathering information from their respective industries to provide input for the national animal-ID plan. Working groups making presentations included beef, dairy, bison, equine, sheep, goat and swine, as well as the markets and processors sector. These presentations will be available at www.animalagriculture.org/id.

"This meeting has been a valuable forum as we look to provide a system that will work for U.S. animal owners," said Sibbel. "The USDA Secretary's April 27 announcement clearly puts animal ID in the forefront of issues for animal agriculture."   
Although the animal-ID framework and standards are designed for many species, some issues still remain unresolved. Confidentiality of data and the need for additional funding were among those topics that need further attention according to participants of the ID Info Expo.  

"Input coming from participants at these meetings is invaluable to the further development of the NAIS," said Scott Stuart, President and CEO of the National Livestock Producers Association and member of the National ID Development Team Steering Committee.  "Making sure that the integrity of producer records is maintained is an issue that must be fully resolved."

Another key component of animal ID is making sure that animal owners fully understand how the national system will work and what they need to do on their operations. NIAA looks to play an important role in facilitating that.  "Communicating this program to our industry will be a priority," said Stuart.  

USDA officials say they will will implement a premises identification system beginning this summer, with other phases of a national system to follow. Agency officials say they will rely on industry to help shape the remaining components of a national system.