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Livestock Industry and Government Move Forward on Multispecies Traceability

by 5m Editor
8 November 2006, at 9:37am

CANADA - Farm-Scape: Episode 2293. Farm-Scape is a Wonderworks Canada production and is distributed courtesy of Manitoba Pork Council and Sask Pork.

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Farm-Scape, Episode 2293

The head of the Canadian Livestock Identification Agency (CLIA) is applauding progress made over the past two months in efforts aimed at creating a national multispecies livestock identification and traceability system.

The CLIA is the umbrella organization which is coordinating the effort to create a set of minimum national standards for traceability common to all species groups.

Since the end of August, members of an industry government advisory committee on traceability have been meeting regularly to outline the steps necessary to create a national structure for identifying all species of livestock in Canada and tracking their movement.

The committee was formed to advise the Federal Provincial Territorial Traceability Task Team and includes representation from Canada's national livestock and poultry commodity groups, existing traceability service providers, federal, provincial and territorial governments and federal regulatory agencies.

Stakeholders Agree on Initial Vision for Traceability

“We've agreed on an initial vision,” says CLIA President Dennis McKerracher.

That vision is to have the required structures, systems and processes for premise identification as well as for animal identification in place by December 2007, recognizing that the third key component of traceability is movement and that will follow. Initial efforts will also focus on four livestock sectors: cattle, sheep, hogs and poultry. The reason for that, McKerracher explains, is cattle and sheep producers already have regulations, while hog producers are discussing regulations with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

There is also a higher urgency within the pork industry because of its dependence on exports. As for poultry, you don't have to go too far back too far in history to recognize the challenges poultry has had as the result of avian influenza. The poultry sector also has a very credible provincial registry of production units and very good systems for tracking the movement of birds to and from the farm.

All Species Play an Important Role

At the same time, McKerracher stresses, that doesn't mean other species groups are less important. The National Goat Federation is well on its way in developing its traceability system. Equine Canada is doing an enormous amount of work with traceability. Bison is also well advanced on traceability.

“What ever we do it has to be credible at national and international levels,” he says. “We have to have recognized standards that are flexible enough for international needs.” McKerracher notes the industry government advisory committee has made significant progress in working toward an agreement on broad national standards and performance objectives

“The last few months have been very encouraging,” he notes. He says everyone around the table had the willingness to be candid, to put their cards on the table and to share information that needed to be shared to create the strategies to meet the agreed upon outcomes. There was a general willingness to cooperate to get the job done.

Outstanding Issues Still to be Addressed

Despite the progress there is still considerable work required in a number of areas. “We have agreed that our national livestock traceability system will be built on a cost shared basis,” McKerracher says.

McKerracher believes people who get value from the system, who use the system, should pay for the system. There is a large degree of public good in what is being built and there's a degree of commerce, so a cost shared model will need to be negotiated among industry and federal, provincial and territorial governments.

He suggests that we have to step back a little bit and recognize that the federal, provincial territorial governments have a responsibility for traceability in the broader context.

Roles and Responsibilities of Industry and Government Being Defined

Breaking down the building blocks of traceability, provincial governments, who are responsible for emergency planning, have agreed to assume responsibility for premise registration and work with industry to get that done. Industry is taking the lead on animal identification, both individual and group, with each species group responsible for developing its own species specific system for animal ID. The third component, reporting movement, will be tackled once premise registration and animal identification have come together.

Who Gets Access to Data to be Worked Out

Who will be authorized to access the information is another question that remains unanswered.

McKerracher explains, “Each specific commodity group currently will undertake those discussions on who has access to their information, for what reasons and who are the authorized people.”

When we're talking about access to information or access to the data that is housed in a traceability system, he says that data is owned by the producers in Canada.

“They are in control and will continue to be in control with what is released and to whom and for what reason.”

However, he points out that industry has recognized the legitimate need of federal, provincial territorial governments to access certain information under certain circumstances. If there was a large power outage in a part of the country it would make sense that we knew where the confined housed livestock were so you could help those people out. When it comes to natural disasters, let alone a foreign animal disease, the need to share certain information, most of which is already public anyway, is recognized.

McKerracher believes each partner has a meaningful role in establishing a traceability system and, while it's up to each species to develop what it needs for its members, it's important to keep in mind the need to have an agreement on minimum outcomes for animal identification. Everyone that is affected by the national livestock traceability system is, if not currently already engaged, will be engaged at some level.

Common Ground Identified

McKerracher stresses the two existing traceability service providers, the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) and Agricultural Traceability Quebec (ATQ) have done an excellent job and the intent is to build on that work and not to reinvent the wheel.

Last month, representatives of the Canadian Livestock Identification met to review industry comments on the first standards document and examine what ATQ and CCIA have in the way of standards performance targets.

“The Canadian Livestock Identification Agency is finding the commonality,” says McKerracher. “Government now has articulated what its needs are and industry has recognized those needs. “

The industry government advisory committee is scheduled to meet again in mid-November and is expected to report back to government early in the new year.

For Farmscape.Ca, I'm Bruce Cochrane.