It was 8 years ago when the cow who stole Christmas brought the need of a national animal identification system to the front burner. But surprisingly in our society where regulations seem all to quickly passed without reason, this one has slowly gone through the process and kept power in the hands of the states.
In the end, hopefully that will bring a rule that addresses the need to quickly trace back animals to the source in the need of an outbreak, but without infringing on the rights of producers.
The proposed rule meets four tenets Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack first laid out earlier this year. It will be administered by states and tribal nations. It will only apply to livestock moved interstate. It encourages the use of low-cost technology. And it will be implemented transparently.
In a news conference Tuesday, Vilsack was joined by APHIS Administrator John Clifford to discuss the proposed rule.
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 or other documentation such as an owner/shipper statement or brand certificates.
Vilsack acknowledged tracing capabilities vary by species. Thus, the proposed regulations focus on those species such as the cattle sector where improved capabilities are most needed. That sector's varying use of official identification coupled with a significant movement of cattle interstate warrants regulations that enhance the current traceability infrastructure.
The proposed regulations specify approved forms of official notification for each species. It will also allow livestock to be moved between the shipping and receiving states or tribes with another form of identification such as brands so long as it is agreed upon by the animal health officials in the two jurisdictions involved.
There will be exemptions for producers who raise animals to feed themselves, their families and their immediate neighbors. Interstate movements of those animals to a custom slaughter facility are also exempt from the traceability regulation.
Clifford said his agency has “worked very closely with the states to give them maximum flexibility but at the same time make sure that we have good traceability. This rule basically sets that stage in motion and provides the states to make those choices that are best for them but will still allow them to trace the animals.”
Vilsack said he anticipates and expects that roughly $14 million to $14.5 million would be necessary to adequately fund this program. “I think there is a good case to be made that we'll have a substantial return on that investment both in terms of being able to minimize testing and costs on producers in a disease-event circumstance and clearly in being more competitive in terms of marketing of our livestock to export markets,” he said.
The nationwide program will be administered by states and tribes at an estimated cost of $14.5 million a year. Vilsack said he believed he could make the case for the cost to Congress because the ability to trace animals in the event of a disease outbreak would narrow the number of animals required to be tested and quarantined.
Currently the cattle industry is one of animal sectors that would require the most change. The proposed rule would remove the hot-iron brand from among the list of official identification devices that cattle producers could choose to comply with the new federal mandate. It also encompasses cattle less than 18 months of age that would be triggered at USDA’s discretion one-year after USDA determines that older-aged cattle are substantially identified. Both of these requirements are concerns for R-CALF USA.
Clifford responded to the brands, stating that there are only about 14 brand states in the United States. And to effectively have brands to high level, it's important that you have a good system in place within those states.
The other 36 states in this country do not have that system in place. “Basically if we allow brands to stay official we would be saying to those other 36 states you would have to implement a system that's not in place in those and put additional burden on those states and those producers within those states,” Clifford said.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said it is supportive of an Animal Disease Traceability program for cattle health purposes. NCBA has worked “diligently with other cattle groups and USDA’s APHIS to ensure cattlemen’s concerns are addressed in a new ADT program,” said NCBA Chief Veterinarian Elizabeth Parker.
Policy is one of the most important issues facing farmers today, but often the most difficult to digest. Jacqui Fatka has a passion to decode the often difficult world of agricultural policy into terms understandable for today's ag players.
Fatka joined the Farm Progress team as E-Content Editor in August 2003 after graduating from Iowa State University. Prior to full-time employment with Farm Progress, she interned at Wallaces Farmer magazine, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley's press office and the Iowa Pork Producers Association and freelanced for National Hog Farmer. She also worked as a public relations consultant with Iowa Industries for the Future, an effort to bring together major players in the biorenewables industry.
Currently Fatka is a staff editor at a sister publication, Feedstuffs. For Farm Futures she regularly tells the story of ongoing agricultural policy changes. Her byline can also be found on management profiles.
Fatka grew up on a grain and livestock farm near Atlantic, Iowa. She currently lives in central Ohio with her husband Eric, and their three children - Josiah, Spencer and Avonell.
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