USAHA Endorses National Identification Plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A national livestock identification plan moved a step closer to realization when the U.S. Animal Health Assn. (USAHA) passed a key resolution in San Diego last week during its annual meeting to accept a draft of the U.S. Animal Identification Plan.
calendar icon 22 October 2003
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The identification effort focuses on the nation's need to be able to manage animal disease outbreaks -- either naturally occurring or acts of bioterrorism -- with the most effective controls and the least disruption to domestic markets and international trade.

Development of the plan has been underway for months. It is a cooperative effort by state and federal agencies and the livestock industry that is billed as a "work in progress."

The vote, which was taken Oct. 14 after a lengthy discussion in the livestock identification committee, endorses future work on the nationwide, all-species plan, which will be phased in over a period of years.

The plan aims to implement a U.S. plan that will eventually mean movements of animals can be traced within 48 hours in the event of a disease outbreak. Creation of the information system capable of handling the workload will be a major cost for the system. A needs assessment for the database is currently being conducted for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In the past, disease eradication programs, such as brucellosis and tuberculosis, have depended on numbered eartag identifiers, but with the success of those programs at eliminating the target diseases, fewer and fewer animals in the U.S. have permanent identification.

The new plan, which has been under development by a state-federal-industry team, notes that confidentiality of "data and access to it, including FOIA (the Freedom of Information Act), must be adequately addressed ... before the industry will support implementation." It is expected that agriculture will be designated as "critical infrastructure" for the purpose of homeland security, which would allow for confidentiality of such data, according to those on the development committee.

According to Feedstuffs, the endorsement of USAHA was seen as key by USDA to advancing the national animal identification plan. Bill Hawks, USDA undersecretary, said before the vote was taken that if the USAHA resolution supported the plan, USDA "would go forward with the development of some pilot projects."

However, he predicted the program would not go into formal rulemaking because USDA "is supportive of a voluntary program that is industry driven."

National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) spokesperson Kara Flynn said, "Of course we applaud the vote, this movement is very positive." NPPC has endorsed the livestock identification plan, which would have animal disease control benefits in preference to country of origin labeling (COOL), which Flynn described as "very costly and with no benefits."

Quoting unnamed USDA sources, OsterDowJones reported last week that USDA has sent the COOL regulations to the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) for review with an economic impact price tag of $3.9 billion. "If that number can be validated, it underscores the problem we have with the COOL program," Flynn said.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, in a videotaped message to the joint meeting of the USAHA and the American Association of Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories, said a national animal identification program "is a key priority for USDA.

"Together," she said, "we must develop a system that works."

She noted that recent outbreaks of low-pathogenic avian influenza in Virginia, exotic Newcastle disease in California and the case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Canada point to the need for a national animal identification system

Source: National Pork Producers Council - 21st October 2003

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