A national animal identification plan is being developed to help protect American animal agriculture. State animal health officials, livestock industry groups and the federal government are working together to finalize the plan. They hope to have Phase One of the plan, Premises ID, in place by July 2004. This phase would require that standardized premises identification numbers be established for all production operations, markets, assembly points, exhibitions and processing plants.

Once the Premises ID systems are in place, the plan will proceed to Phase Two, which calls for individual identification for cattle in commerce. Phase two will require all other food animal and livestock species that enter commerce to be identified through individual or group/lot identification.

Phase Two would be in place by the beginning of 2006. The goal is to develop a national standardized program that has the capability to identify all premises and animals that had direct contact with a foreign animal disease within 48 hours of its discovery. This goal may require that certain data be housed in a central database.

States, industry and the USDA have been working in partnership on the plan through the National Animal Identification Development Team. The team, which includes a steering committee and five working groups, has produced a draft plan with the working name of the U.S. Animal Identification Plan (USAIP). It carries the tagline "Protecting American Animal Agriculture."

"The development of a national identification plan has been worked on for several years, but the recent BSE experience in Canada has reinforced the need for the U.S. to introduce a national plan as soon as practicably possible," said Neil Hammerschmidt, Chief Operating Officer of the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium and co-chair of the development team’s steering committee.

"A national plan which IDs all food animals and livestock will allow the U.S. to identify any animals exposed to disease and will facilitate stopping the spread of that disease," said Glenn Slack, president and CEO of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA). "This will help protect American animal agriculture from the devastating effects that might occur in the event of a case of BSE, foot and mouth disease or other deleterious diseases ever being discovered in the U.S."

The draft plan draws on existing voluntary and compulsory animal identification programs currently in place in the U.S. and coordinates these into a truly national program for the first time. Details are still to be finalized, but the development team expects to complete its work within the next 60 days. It is expected that the plan will then be open to review and comment by industry stakeholders.

"Maintaining the health of the U.S. animal herd is the most urgent issue for the industry and is the focus of the draft plan," said Hammerschmidt. "The benefits of a national animal health identification system include enhanced disease control and eradication capabilities, rapid containment of foreign animal disease outbreaks and enhanced ability to respond to threats to biosecurity."

"A national system would also provide benefits to industry in terms of market access and consumer demands," said Slack. "Source and process verification are gaining consumer momentum, providing producers with an added value opportunity. Also, livestock and animal products from the U.S. are highly marketable worldwide. Assuring animal traceability through animal identification adds value to the product."

"Furthermore, as more retailers and consumers demand source-verified systems, the ability of producers to sell their products to these markets might depend on the ability to trace animals to the farm of origin," said Slack. "Other countries have already developed systems that are being used as technical barriers to trade. These systems are rapidly becoming the world standard. The U.S needs to be consistent with the animal tracking systems of its international trading partners to avoid the loss of international markets."

"As recently as 1995, nearly nine million calves were identified with orange brucellosis vaccination ear tags," said Hammerschmidt. "That number represented slightly less than one fourth of all the newborn calves or about 45 percent of all female calves (only females are vaccinated). Today, fewer than four million calves are vaccinated (10 percent of total calves, 20 percent of females). The U.S. is very close to declaring itself free from brucellosis. The level of vaccination will continue to decrease, if not cease entirely. The identification of calves to the farm of origin will be minimal in two to three years."

"Without identification, our livestock industries would be vulnerable to any disease situation that required rapid tracking of animal movement," said Hammerschmidt.

The draft plan follows 18 months of intensive work by states, industry and USDA. In early 2002, NIAA’s Animal Identification and Information System Committee organized an NIAA task force comprised of approximately 100 representatives of more than 30 stakeholder groups. After months of work, the task force produced the National Identification Work Plan (NIWP). That plan was presented at the NIAA ID/INFO EXPO in Chicago in July 2002. The final draft of the NIWP was then presented to the U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA) at its annual meeting in October 2002.

The USAHA accepted the plan with a resolution calling for USDA, APHIS, VS, to establish a National Animal Identification Team composed of state, industry and federal partners to further develop a national plan, using the NIWP as a guide." With this charge, APHIS, VS identified key industry leaders to serve as the team’s Steering Committee. These steering committee members then selected members of five working groups, including Communication, Transition, Standards, Governance and Information Technology.

An official Web site containing details of the draft plan, background information, Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about the proposed plan and provision for comments about the plan is currently under construction. An announcement as to the Web site address will be made shortly.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Scott Stuart, USAIP Communication Subcommittee Co-Chair, 719-538-8843, or e-mail at Communication@USAIP.info.