National animal identification system started

WASHINGTON, DC, April 28, 2004 (ENS): Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman Tuesday announced the framework for a National Animal Identification System. The system is designed to identify any agricultural premise exposed to a foreign animal disease so that it can be more quickly contained and eradicated.

The system has been in the works for at least 18 months, but development was hurried in the wake of the discovery of a Washington dairy cow infected with mad cow disease last December. Some 57 countries have banned imports of U.S. beef, devastating the industry.

Veneman announced that $18.8 million would be transferred from the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to provide initial funding for the program during the current fiscal year.

Veneman said that the CCC funding is earmarked for the initial infrastructure development and implementation of the national system, but both private and public support will be required to make it fully operational. The administration’s proposed FY 2005 budget includes another $33 million for the identification system.

“While many livestock species in the United States can be identified through a variety of systems, a verifiable system of national animal identification will enhance our efforts to respond to intentionally or unintentionally introduced animal disease outbreaks more quickly and effectively,” Veneman said.

System implementation will be conducted in three main phases. Under Phase I, the USDA would evaluate current federally funded animal identification systems and determine which system or systems should be used, further the dialogue with producers and other stakeholders on operations, identify staffing needs, and develop any regulatory and legislative proposals needed for implementing the system.

The first step in the process is to select an interim data repository to handle incoming national premises data. The USDA has commissioned an independent analysis of repositories that are currently part of various USDA funded animal identification projects around the country.

Once the best system is identified, the USDA will enter into cooperative agreements with states, Indian tribes and other government entities to assist them in adapting their existing systems to the new system.

Phase II would involve the implementation of the selected animal identification system at regional levels for one or more selected species, continuation of the communication and education effort, addressing regulatory needs and working with Congress on any needed legislation.

In Phase III, the selected animal identification system or systems would be scaled up to the national level, Veneman said.

USDA is committed to develop a program that is technology neutral, so as to enable producers, to the extent possible, the flexibility to use current and effective systems and technologies, as well as adopt new technologies as they are developed.

Veneman said, “This framework is the result of concerted efforts to expedite the implementation of a system that meets our goals and enables farmers and ranchers to adapt existing identification programs and to use all existing forms of effective technologies.”

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