National animal ID system starts with premises registration

WASHINGTON, 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 were slaughtered.

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 database architecture.

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 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. No firm date has been given for achieving full implementation.

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