USDA will hold a series of public listening and comment sessions throughout the next couple of months to allow U.S. livestock industry participants discuss the development and implementation of a national animal identification program.

The sessions are part of the agency’s commitment to establish a national animal ID program. While this topic has been discussed between industry and government agencies for several years, the project took on new urgency following the discovery of a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a Washington state cow last December.

The goal of the current proposal is to be able to trace an animal back through a premises identification number within 48 hours of a health or disease alert. The program is being touted as a national herd-health protection program. USDA officials at World Pork Expo last week said, the premises numbers will likely be distributed in August. Pilot programs to begin testing identification systems are planned to begin by Aug. 1, according to USDA officials.

The first listening session was held on June 14 in Fayetteville, N.C. 

Additional listening sessions will be held as follows: Athens, Ga. on June 18; Prineville, Ore. on July 1; Stockton, Calif. on July 10; Socorro, N.M. on July 16; Pasco, Wash. on July 23; Greeley, Colo. on Aug. 10; Billings, Mont. on Aug. 13; Kissimmee, Fla. on Aug. 16; Columbus, Ohio on Aug. 18; Ames, Iowa on Aug. 26; Joplin, Mo. on Aug. 27; Appleton, Wis. on Aug. 30; and St. Cloud, Minn. on Aug. 31.

Details about each listening session, including meeting locations and times can be found on USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Web site