See also: Johanns Details NAIS on AgriTalk

USDA  Secretary Mike Johanns has come out with a more detailed implementation plan for the National Animal Identification System. It outlines timelines and benchmarks to move the program forward, and it includes strategies to integrate private and state animal tracking databases with NAIS.

"Developing an effective animal identification system has been a high priority for USDA and we've made significant strides," says Johanns. "We recognize that this represents one of the largest systematic changes ever faced by the livestock industry."

The implementation plan continues to set an aggressive timeline to ensure that NAIS is fully implemented by 2009. The goal is to have NAIS operational by 2007, with full producer participation by 2009.

He points to several important components have already been accomplished. These include the state premises registration systems, as well as establishing guidelines for the manufacture and distribution of animal identification numbers. To date, more than 235,000 premises have been registered.

Last week, USDA also released the general technical standards for animal-tracking databases. This will allow the integration of private systems with NAIS. Private database owners can submit applications to USDA for system evaluation. USDA will then enter into cooperative agreements with database owners that meet the standards. Application for system evaluation and a draft cooperative agreement are available on the NAIS Web site at www.usda.gov/nais.

By early 2007, USDA officials expect to have the Animal Trace Processing System-- or commonly known as the metadata system-- that will allow state and federal animal-health officials to access NAIS and private databases during a disease investigation. The animal-tracking databases will record and store animal-movement information for animals of interest in a disease investigation involving state and federal animal-health officials.

Training sessions will be offered to parties interested in distributing animal identification number (AIN) tags as either a tag manager or tag reseller. USDA will conduct two Web conferences to discuss the administration of AIN tags as well as demonstrate the AIN Management System. The dates are April 13 at 1 p.m. and April 26 at 1 p.m. (EST). Details are available on the NAIS Web site.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also is finalizing $3 million in funds that will be awarded to states and tribes to conduct field trials to analyze animal ID information. Field trials will focus on the evaluation of new technologies for animal identification and automated data collection. APHIS will fund an economic study on the cost implementing NAIS within a state; the procedures needed to measure the performance of ID devices, and a bi-state study to develop recommendations regarding livestock exhibitions to meet NAIS compatibility.

APHIS has already awarded about $27 million to states and tribes to advance the NAIS. It has primarily been used for premises identification and registration. APHIS is updating a report detailing what has been accomplished to this point; it will be made public once it's completed.

Included in NAIS implement efforts, USDA has had extensive dialogue with producers and industry organizations nationwide, notes Johanns. Last April, USDA published a draft strategic plan and program standards and invited public comments on those documents. Industry-specific working groups also have studied the proposals and made recommendations on how best to tailor the program to meet industry-specific needs.

Additionally, USDA hosted a public meeting in Kansas City, Mo, in November, 2005, to collect comments from cooperators and stakeholders involved in the animal tracking component of NAIS. "These efforts have ensured that momentum continues to build around this important effort," Johanns notes. USDA believes that it is critically important to develop the appropriate framework for the system to ensure successful implementation and wide-scale support.

The NAIS implementation plan, as well as more information about the program, is available at www.usda.gov/nais.

USDA