(AP) — Federal officials looking to head off livestock disease outbreaks are drafting regulations that would require livestock producers to identify animals that move across state lines.
The aim of the animal identification requirement is to make it easier and faster for officials to trace diseases to a particular location, time and group of animals.
The regulations are being drafted six months after the USDA dropped the National Animal Identification System, an unpopular voluntary program meant to trace livestock movement. The new regulations are expected to be implemented in 2013.
"A voluntary system has not worked so far, and that's why the USDA has gone back to the drawing board and created a system that relies much more strongly on compulsory or mandatory identification instead of voluntary," said Marty Zaluski, the Montana state veterinarian and a member of the USDA working group drafting the new rule.
States will have authority to decide how to track livestock moving within their own borders, but they will be accountable to the federal government for the system they choose.
Accountability standards would be created to make sure the state systems are working, Morris said. The aim is to make the regulations flexible, but also to develop and maintain standards.
"How can you be flexible and still have a standard? We're working our way through those (issues) and still trying to provide options and still trying to progress toward not having 50 different systems in 50 different states," Morris said.
Besides dealing only in interstate commerce, the new federal regulation would also require animals to have a certificate of health from veterinarian — with some yet-undefined exceptions.
Two or more states could agree among themselves to accept brand inspections as official identification, but creating and implementing that system would be in the states' hands, not the federal government's, Morris said.
USDA is holding a series of public meetings on the proposed regulations and plans to have a draft rule ready in April 2011. The final rule is expected to be published a year to 15 months after that, with full implementation a year after the final rule is published.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.