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USDA Support Sought in Mandatory Animal ID

by 5m Editor
26 February 2009, at 8:43am

US - Citing an increasing vulnerability to foreign animal disease, the National Pork Producers Council yesterday urged the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to lend his support to a mandatory National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

The animal ID system would be used to help animal health officials trace diseased or exposed animals to their farm of origin within 48 hours, making control and eradication of any disease easier. The key component of such a system is registration of premises, which requires the collection of publicly available data, including the physical location of an operation, telephone number and contact information.

In a letter sent to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, NPPC noted that USDA has struggled since 2004 to implement a viable NAIS that serves the needs of animal agriculture. It pointed out that the agency’s past efforts to establish an animal ID system have been fraught with indecision in the department over whether it should be mandatory or voluntary, hampered by inadequate funding to advance implementation and opposed by extremist groups that do not understand the importance of premises identification and pre-harvest traceability for disease management.

“The US livestock industry is increasingly vulnerable to foreign animal disease because of the potential spread through increased international travel and trade,” said NPPC in its letter to Secretary Vilsack. “Even more frightening is the threat of deliberate introduction of disease by terrorists.”

Should the United States’ trading partners close their markets to US meat exports, the US pork industry alone would lose billions of dollars, according to NPPC. In 2008, US pork exports totaled nearly $5 billion.

The US swine industry has long supported a mandatory NAIS for all relevant species of animal agriculture and has asked pork packers to require premises identification numbers as a condition of sale. Over the past three years, NPPC and the National Pork Board have worked with USDA to implement a swine ID system and have registered more than 80 percent of the approximately 67,300 swine premises.

“The NAIS is critical to protecting our national swine herd and, thus, our domestic and international markets,” said NPPC President Bryan Black, a pork producer from Canal Winchester, Ohio. “Without such a system, the increased cost to USDA and animal agriculture in the event of a foreign animal disease will be staggering.”