Speaking with reporters at the International Food Aid Conference this week in Kansas City, Mo., USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said he soon plans to hold discussions with groups opposed to a mandatory ID system. “We’re anxious to listen and learn and then try to be creative in trying to respond, but the bottom line is we have got to have a system that works,” he said.

According to an Associated Press article, Vilsack addressed the conference about the need for international food aid and the agency’s commitment to ship agricultural commodities to needy countries. In an interview with reporters, he touched on the issue of the National Animal Identification System, saying USDA is anxious to listen and learn and will try to be creative in trying to respond. Several members of Congress are pushing for a mandatory ID system.

The NAIS program has remained voluntary and some livestock producers have refused to participate, questioning its confidentiality and raising liability concerns.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chairwoman of the House agriculture appropriations subcommittee, told the Associated Press in a phone interview that she has lost patience for a voluntary system that has registered only 35 percent of U.S. livestock facilities over five years and received $142 million in funding.

“We are tired of the foot-dragging on this issue,” she said. “We need to move forward on this.”

The pork industry has had its own animal identification program for more than 20 years. The National Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council has a joint effort to get pork producers to register their premises in the NAIS program. So far, 80 percent of the hogs produced in the United States are represented within that program participation.