Federal agriculture officials holding meetings for feedback on animal ID system


Federal agriculture authorities will meet with stakeholders in livestock and poultry industries to hear their opinions on the National Animal Identification System.

Department of Agriculture officials have scheduled seven all-day meetings from May 14 to June 1 in cities across the country during which people can provide suggestions and comments on the system.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a written statement provided May 4 that approximately 35 percent of farmers in the U.S. are participating in the voluntary system, and concerns remain over cost, the impact on small farmers, privacy, confidentiality, and liability.

“Today, I am asking farmers and stakeholders to engage with USDA in a more productive dialogue about NAIS,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a written statement provided May 4. “Now is the time to have frank and open conversations.”

Dr. John Clifford, deputy administrator for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said in testimony May 5 before two House subcommittees that about 70 percent of animals of a given species or sector would need to be identified and traceable for the NAIS to be successful.

“While 70 percent would provide some measure of traceability, I must emphasize that we really need to achieve higher participation rates, perhaps as high as 90 percent, to ensure the benefits of the system,” Dr. Clifford said, according to a transcript from the House Committee on Agriculture.

Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, AVMA CEO, testified March 11 before the House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry that the AVMA supports implementation of a mandatory NAIS. He said livestock disease outbreaks can be devastating for animal production, food production, and trade, and a mandatory NAIS would reduce the time needed to control such an outbreak and minimize the economic and public health impacts.

Dr. James O. Cook, AVMA president, was among more than two dozen stakeholders who gave presentations on the NAIS during a roundtable discussion hosted by the USDA on April 15.

Dr. Cook said the AVMA strongly supports implementation of an animal identification program that can trace the origins and travels of animals within 48 hours. Without such a system, U.S. agricultural producers would face problems involving trade restrictions and disease control, he said.

“For a highly contagious disease such as foot-and-mouth disease, a rapid response made possible with a National Animal Identification System could save millions of animal lives and billions of dollars,” Dr. Cook said, according to a USDA transcript. “Animal identification systems are becoming prerequisites to international trade, and studies describe how our nation lags behind major livestock-producing countries in terms of animal traceability.”

Joelle R. Schelhaus, a spokeswoman for USDA-APHIS, said the USDA is still promoting the NAIS as a voluntary system, and the public would be told if that were to change.

Stakeholder meetings are scheduled to take place May 14 in Harrisburg, Pa.; May 18 in Pasco, Wash.; May 20 in Austin, Texas; May 21 in Birmingham, Ala; May 22 in Louisville, Ky.; May 27 in Storrs, Conn.; and June 1 in Loveland, Colo.

The USDA is also accepting comments online at www.regulations.gov. To submit comments, go to the Web site and type APHIS-2009-0027-0001 into the search box.

Schelhaus said in early May it was not yet clear how long the USDA would be considering comments. The comment page at regulations.gov had, at press time, a submission deadline of August 3.

The agriculture department is providing information on the meetings at http://animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais.
 


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