USDA seeks input on animal traceability plan

Buckeye Farm News

Below are excerpts from questions and answers about the plan from USDA. You can read more and submit comments. The deadline for the comment period has been extended to Dec. 9.

Ohio Farm Bureau’s current policy supports a voluntary national animal identification system. It calls for uniform standards amongst states and says the plan must respond to concerns about cost, confidentiality and liability.

Q. Why is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issuing this proposed rule on animal disease traceability?

A. USDA is issuing this proposed rule to improve our ability to trace livestock and poultry when there is a disease event. While existing animal disease programs provide USDA and its partners with pertinent traceability information, the tracing capabilities vary widely by species. Thus, the proposed animal disease traceability regulations focus on those species, such as the cattle sector, where improved capabilities are most needed. That sector’s inconsistent use of official identification coupled with the significant movement of cattle interstate warrants regulations that enhance the current traceability infrastructure. Certain other species, sheep for example, are supported with adequate traceability as a result of the current scrapie eradication program requirements. In such situations, current regulations will be maintained.

Q. How is this proposed rule any different than the National Animal Identification System (NAIS)?

A. Introduced in 2004, NAIS was a voluntary system based on registration of all premises where livestock or poultry were housed or kept. In 2009, when USDA launched a series of efforts to assess the level of acceptance for NAIS, the findings were that many viewed NAIS as a government-imposed, “one-size-fits-all” approach to animal traceability. Producers raised serious concerns about the protection of proprietary information through premises registration and with the need for significantly more flexibility. Due to the level of opposition in the countryside, NAIS was never fully implemented and was discontinued in 2009.The new proposed traceability approach put forward today honors the legitimate concerns of the American public and those in rural America, as well as those who have supported our past traceability efforts.Specifically, the new approach would:

•    Achieve basic, effective animal disease traceability and response to animal disease outbreaks without over-burdening producers;

•    ONLY apply to animals moving interstate;

•    Be owned, led and administered by the states and Tribal Nations with federal support focused entirely on animal disease traceability;

•    Allow for maximum flexibility for states, Tribal Nations and producers to work together to find identification solutions that meet their local needs;

•    Encourage the use of low-cost technology; and

•    Ensure that animal disease traceability data are owned and maintained at the discretion of the states and Tribal Nations.

Q. How does this rule benefit producers?

A. Effective animal disease traceability can help reduce the number of herds involved in a disease investigation to only those herds that are directly involved. Low levels of official identification in the cattle sector require more cattle—often thousands—to be tested than necessary and drastically increase the time required to conduct investigations. For example, bovine tuberculosis disease investigations frequently now exceed 150 days, as USDA and State investigative teams spend substantially more time and money in conducting tracebacks.

As a result of the rule, accurate traceability information will be more readily available and the amount of time required to conduct investigations will be reduced, thus the potential spread of certain diseases will be better controlled. Reducing the number of animals quarantined or disposed of and the time taken to resume interstate animal movement contribute toward making disease responses less costly for producers.

Q. What will I need in order to move my animal interstate under this proposed rule?

A. Under this proposed rule, unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate would have to be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection (ICVI) or other documentation, such as an owner-shipper statement or a brand certificate. The proposed regulations specify approved forms of official identification for each species, but would also allow livestock to be moved between the shipping and receiving States or Tribes with another form of identification, such as brands, as agreed upon by animal health officials in the two jurisdictions.

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