Buckeye Farm News
Saying that the United States has “got to have a system that works,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is vowing to make changes to the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).
“(The U.S. Department of Agriculture) needs to hear directly from our stakeholders as we work together to create an animal disease traceability program we can all support,” Vilsack said recently in announcing that USDA officials will travel across the country to determine whether NAIS should be mandatory or voluntary.
Five years ago, federal officials started implementing NAIS in an attempt to respond quickly and effectively to reports of animal diseases in the United States. American Farm Bureau supports a voluntary system, said Adam Sharp, OFBF’s senior director of legislative and regulatory policy.
“USDA has made some strides in these areas but there’s still a long way to go before farmers are comfortable with this program,” he said.
One of the issues that farmers are concerned about is who will control the data and whether it will remain confidential. While a recent federal court ruling found that records collected through NAIS are not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, AFBF said the ruling could still be appealed.
Another major question is who will pay for the program. AFBF said Congress needs to publish cost estimates and appropriate funding before a decision can be made about whether to make NAIS mandatory.
“Liability is another issue for producers. We want to make sure we protect them,” Sharp said. “When farmers sell animals into the market system, they lose control of the animal. If there’s a problem with the animal later in the system, we need to make sure there is protection for the farmer.”
“In the spirit of President Obama’s call for transparency in government, now is the time to have frank and open conversations,” Vilsack said. “We need to work collaboratively to resolve concerns and move forward with animal traceability.”