Farm Bureau: USDA Considering New Animal ID Approach

TENNESSEE - The Agriculture Department is considering a new approach for a national animal identification system that would allow the department to link to a network of private and state-operated animal tracking databases, Dr. John Clifford, USDA’s chief veterinarian, said at an American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting conference.
calendar icon 12 January 2006
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The system would allow USDA to tap into a portal of various animal identification and tracking systems run by commodity groups or other organizations, as well as into 20 existing state databases.

The new approach retains the critical components of a national database already established by USDA: premises registration, animal identification (individual or by groups/lots) and animal tracking.

“The concept will allow us to enter into agreements with the different entities responsible for the different databases,“ Clifford explained.

The agreement will define the legal responsibility of all parties involved regarding the system’s specifications, which USDA has determined will be reliability, uninterrupted access for state health officials and no user fees for states or federal entities accessing the system.

“It will also define the necessary safeguards to preserve the data if the organization or company ceases to maintain that database,“ he continued.

Clifford emphasized that the agency is now only considering the feasibility of this approach, but said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns strongly supports the idea.

While the stakeholders involved in the animal identification debate are a diverse lot, the cost of developing, implementing and maintaining a system is a concern shared by all.

Kirk Ferrell, vice president of public policy for the National Pork Producers Council, also speaking at the conference, supported adapting an existing federal program for eradicating pseudorabies in swine to meet national animal identification requirements, but stressed that regardless of the approach chosen, it should not result in an additional cost for pork producers.

Similarly, at the top of the list of concerns for Scott Stewart, president and CEO of the National Livestock Producers Association, are the expenses associated with creating and supporting the necessary technology, as well as the labor costs tied to managing data and tagging animals.

Jay Truitt, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said his organization is working on a cattle industry-specific system that will minimize costs and regulatory burdens for producers.

Truitt said NCBA is testing a system developed in conjunction with Microsoft, Biotrace and Hewlett-Packard. The system, which the federal government will have access to, will eventually be turned over to a private entity.

Source: American Farm Bureau Federation - 11th January 2006

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