Subcommittee Holds Field Hearing to Review USDA's National Animal Identification System

Aug 17, 2004

FAYETTEVILLE , N.C.- The Livestock and Horticulture Subcommittee held a hearing today in Fayetteville, N.C. to review USDA's National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The USDA accelerated efforts to develop an animal ID program after the December 23, 2003 discovery of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in Washington state.

The subcommittee heard from the Administration as well as representatives of various state and national producer groups on how to begin identifying animals. A complete witness list is available at the bottom of the release.

In March, the full committee held a hearing to gain an understanding of USDA's vision for a national ID system as well as hear from representatives of various producer groups. From that point on, USDA has continued steps toward implementing animal ID. On July 22, the Subcommittee held a hearing in Washington to review the progress thus far.

Subcommittee Chairman Robin Hayes sited the ongoing oversight of animal ID as a high priority for the committee. The Chairman also noted the importance of USDA and producer groups working together to establish a successful program. "I firmly believe the best way for a national animal identification program to work is for the producers and industry to work with USDA to develop a system, rather than having bureaucrats in Washington mandate a burdensome, costly program. I encourage USDA to work with producers and have a transparent process as we continue to move forward," Chairman Hayes said.

Chairman Hayes also noted some concerns about the program: "Some of the same concerns continue to arise as we move forward in implementing a system such as costs; confidentiality; whether it will be a voluntary or mandatory program; which technology will be used; and making sure there is not a 'one size fits all' program. I am pleased by the direction USDA is going on some of these concerns."

On April 27, Secretary Veneman announced the transfer of $18.8 million for USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation to provide initial funding needed to begin development of NAIS. Additionally, the President's fiscal year 2005 budget calls for $33 million in funding for animal identification.

The Chairman, as well as the USDA, has remained "technology neutral" allowing the producers to determine a system that works well for the industry. Under Secretary Bill Hawks noted the importance of confidentiality in his testimony. "Let me say that the national repository will only include information for animal and disease tracking purposes. Proprietary production data will remain in private databases. However, because of the concerns of producers, we are examining the issue of confidentiality very closely and exploring various options for protecting the information in the NAIS from public disclosure," Hawks said.

"This is a system that can have great value for the livestock industry, but we must not take the responsibility lightly. There are some very critical decisions that must be made to have a beneficial, cost effective and confidential system," the Chairman said.

USDA will conclude the listening sessions designed to gather feedback from interested parties this month. On July 14, USDA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) to solicit comments from producer and industry groups regarding the implementation of the program. " I hope the Department will take a close look at the comments received both at the listening sessions and the ANPR and use this information in deciding how to structure the system," said Chairman Hayes.

The subcommittee will continue dialogue with the USDA as the program develops and will retain oversight over implementation of NAIS.

Witness List

Panel I

The Honorable Bill Hawks, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington , D.C.

Panel II

Mr. David Collier, Chairman, Swine Advisory Committee, American Farm Bureau Federation, Fayetteville , North Carolina

Accompanied by: Mr. Chester Lowder, Director of Livestock Programs, North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, Norwood , North Carolina

Mr. Russ Kremer, President, Missouri Farmers Union, Bonnots Mill , Missouri , on behalf of the National Farmers Union

Mr. Kenny Fox, Region III Vice President of South Dakota Stockgrowers, Belvidere, South Dakota, on behalf of R-CALF, United Stockgrowers of America

Mr. Marcus Harward, President, North Carolina Cattlemen's Association, Richfield , North Carolina

Mr. Rann Carpenter, Chief Executive Officer, North Carolina Pork Council, Raleigh, North Carolina

Dr. Eric Gonder, Veterinarian, Goldsboro Milling Company, Goldsboro, North Carolina, on behalf of the National Turkey Federation and the North Carolina Poultry Federation