Yesterday, two U.S. House Subcommittees held a joint public hearing to review the National Animal Identification System to examine the identification system's role in protecting U.S. producers and consumers from the effects of an animal disease outbreak. 

The subcommittees involved were the Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry, chaired by Representative David Scott of Georgia, and the Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and Science and Technology, chaired by Representative Yvette Clarke of New York. 

"The National Animal Identification System is a producer's insurance against the potentially devastating economic impacts of a widespread animal disease epidemic," Scott said.  "A robust animal ID system with full traceability provides protection by helping to preserve producer market access, because it will allow us to more quickly isolate problem animals and stop the spread of
illness."

He pointed out that such a program would demonstrate to other nations that the U.S. herd is safe and reopen those markets to U.S.
goods.

"I want to stress that our ability to effectively assess and respond to an animal disease outbreak remains limited until we have a functioning animal ID system in place," said  Clarke. Some members of congress are growing increasingly impatient with the slow progress of NAIS and want the issue to move forward. 

"Today we heard from witnesses about the need for an effective animal identification system," said Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota. "While such a system is not intended to prevent a disease outbreak, it is a vital tool that can help trace, track, and quarantine infected animals in case such an outbreak occurs. Identifying the source of an outbreak and
mitigating its effects will save taxpayers in the long run and keep our export markets open."

Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, pointed to the new Type A H1N1 influenza virus as an example of now even new health issues can create widespread challenges. It further demonstrates "our need to not only be prepared to react to disease outbreaks, but to also undertake the necessary mitigation and research efforts that allow us to stay one step ahead," he said  "Animal identification is the first step in being able to trace animals and respond to animal-health emergencies."

USDA established NAIS in 2004 to enhance its existing animal-health protection efforts by
offering national standards and expanding the level of participation beyond what had been required in existing disease programs.

The Joint Subcommittee heard testimony from USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the overseer of NAIS, as well as the Homeland Security Department's Office of Health Affairs, which works with federal agency and State, local, tribal and private sector partners to assist in protecting the nation's critical infrastructure relating to food, agriculture, and veterinary resources. State health, food safety and agriculture officials also testified about NAIS and state-administered animal identification efforts.

To view written testimony provided by the witnesses, click here. A full transcript of the hearing will be posted online at a later date.

Witness List: 

  • John Clifford, Deputy Administrator for Veterinary Services, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA. 
  • Thomas McGinn, Chief Veterinarian, Office of Health Affairs, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 
  • David Smith, Assistant Director, Division of Animal Industry, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
  • Jerry Gillespie, Former Director of Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, University of California, Davis.
  • Kevin Kirk, Special Assistant to the Division Director, Michigan Department of Agriculture, Animal Industry Division,

Source: U.S. House Committee on Agriculture