DC, July 20, 2004 (ENS): The discovery of a
cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE),
or mad cow disease, in Washington state last December
prompted demands for a national animal identification
system so that such diseased animals can be traced.
The task is enormous as more than 100 million head of
cattle live in the United States. Last week some 635,000
While such a system is not ready for rollout yet, the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant
Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Monday announced that
it has selected a premises registration system as an
interim solution, or first step.
The system, developed by the Wisconsin Livestock Identification
Consortium, will record locations where animals reside
or will reside.
"Before animals can be tracked during a disease
outbreak, we need to know where the animals are located,"
said APHIS Administrator Ron DeHaven, a veterinarian.
"Registering animal premises is a key component
of a national animal identification system and will
help trace animal movements during any future outbreaks."
The interim system was selected based on the results
of a review conducted by SI International of Reston,
Virginia, DeHaven said.
Currently, the USDA is preparing the system for use
in multiple states and will provide it to a limited
number of states in early August. It will be phased
in to ensure that any problems can be addressed before
it is available nationally, DeHaven said.
The USDA says it is committed to designing a comprehensive
animal identification system that will trace all animals
and premises potentially exposed to a foreign animal
disease within 48 hours. This will ensure that the disease
is quickly contained and eradicated.
The agency will provide the interim standardized premises
registration system that states or tribes can elect
to use. States and tribes also can use other premises
registration systems, as long as these systems meet
national data standards.
By early August, the USDA plans to have evaluated other
premises registration systems to ensure compliance with
the national data standards.
In April, more than $18 million was transferred from
USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation to APHIS to
begin implementing a national system. Of this amount,
more than $11 million is available for state and tribal
governments to focus chiefly on premises identification.
The remainder of the funds will be used to support the
development of the national animal identification program,
including carrying out outreach activities and building
The implementation of a national animal identification
system will be conducted in three main phases, Agriculture
Secretary Ann Veneman said in April. Under Phase I,
the USDA will evaluate current federally funded animal
identification systems and determine which system or
systems should be used. The ag agency will further the
dialogue with producers and other stakeholders on the
operation of a national animal identification system,
identify staffing needs, and develop any regulatory
and legislative proposals needed for implementing the
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.
No firm date has been given for achieving full implementation.