WASHINGTON, D.C.-The Livestock and Horticulture Subcommittee held a hearing today 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. 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.
The subcommittee heard from the Administration as well as representatives of various regional systems that have worked with producers, the livestock industry, state animal health officials, and USDA on how to begin identifying animals. A complete witness list is available at the bottom of the release.
On Wednesday, July 21, the subcommittee hosted a technology display show which featured many of the companies actively engaged in animal identification.
"These companies are the creators of cutting edge technology that can work in multiple species and rapidly trace animals from the farm to the processor," Chairman Robin Hayes said. "Many companies already have workable databases in place and technology which is being used right now. I hope USDA will allow these companies to come into the fold and use those systems that meet USDA's requirements."
"Rather than reinvent the wheel, I believe these companies should be given a fair opportunity to be a player in a national animal identification system. The more competition there is in available technologies, the more cost efficient it will be for the producer," Hayes continued.
Throughout the process USDA has remained "technology neutral,? allowing the producer groups to determine the best method for the industry. "Rather than focus on a specific technology, the USDA will focus on the design of the identification system"Once the identification system is designed, the mark et will determine which technologies will be the most appropriate to meet the needs of the system," witness John Clifford said in his testimony.
USDA released an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) asking for comments regarding several characteristics of the proposed program. "We are holding listening sessions around the country and on July 9, we published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that, among other things, solicits comments on when and under what circumstances that NAIS should move from being voluntary to mandatory, and which species should be covered now and over the long term," Clifford said.
"Animal identification systems have merit for producers for other reasons as well, including performance recording and marketing opportunities. However, APHIS is focused on animal ID for one principal reason: to establish the animal information foundation we need to support our animal disease control, eradication, monitoring and surveillance programs," said Clifford.
The subcommittee will continue dialogue with the USDA as the program develops and will retain oversight over implementation of NAIS.
Dr. John Clifford, Deputy Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Neil Hammerschmidt, Coordinator, National Animal Identification System, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Mark Armentrout, Member, Beef Information Exchange, Atlanta, Georgia
Ms. Jodi Luttropp, Coordinator, National Farm Animal Identification and Records, Brattleboro, Vermont
Mr. Jim Akers, Coordinator, Southeastern Livestock Network, LLC, Lexington, Kentucky
Mr. John Stevenson, Director, Kentucky Beef Network, Lexington, Kentucky, on behalf of Southeastern Livestock Network, LLC