National Animal ID Program Halted

The USDA has announced that the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) has been halted. Pressure from livestock groups fearing that electronically tagging livestock to identify and track them to prevent food illness would be too expensive.

Originally, all cattle were to be tagged with a chip containing a 15-digit electronic number that would identify where the animal came from. Data from these tags would reside in a national database so agriculture officials could track the origin of foodborne illnesses. However, livestock producers feared that the cost in dollars and time would be too prohibitive, especially for small farmers.

The USDA will now seek ways to modify the program, and will not require electronic tracking of all livestock.  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release that he has “decided to revise the prior policy and offer a new approach to animal disease traceability with changes that respond directly to the feedback we heard”.

The new “Animal Disease Traceability Framework” will contain modifications of the NAIS. One modification is a change in the type of tagging.  Rather than electronic chips, the agency will help states use low-cost visual tags or the electronic systems. The modified plan will apply only to animals moved in interstate commerce.

Another modification to the plan is that each state will administer it’s own tracking program. While some think this approach will bring about more flexibility, others are not so sure.  Rosa DeLauro, chairwoman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee  says  “I am concerned that we are moving from a single system capable of integrating and analyzing information across state lines to a collection of over 50 smaller systems that rely on different technology will be less effective for national animal disease surveillance and response efforts”.

The goal of the Animal Disease Traceability Framework is animal health and aims to assist the USDA in quickly finding out where diseased animals have been and what other animals they might come into contact with.  “Animal disease traceability isn’t a food safety program” according to the UDSA.

For more information about the new program, visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/traceability/.

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