Posted September 1, 2005: The U.S. Department of Agriculture
announced its guiding principles for the new National
Animal Identification System (NAIS) on Tuesday. Among
those listed were the ability to track from origin to
processing within 48 hours and the need to be easily
accessible for both government officials and producers
but it was not a guiding principle that drew the most
criticism from farm groups.
Quietly tucked into the announcement of the guiding
principles was a second announcement: the system would
be run by a private firm. And it was this disclosure
that that had the industry at attention.
“R-CALF USA was extremely disappointed to learn
that a single, privately held animal-tracking repository
will track and maintain animal-movement data for the
agency’s National Animal Identification System
(NAIS),” Chuck Kiker, Region V Director of the
cattle producer’s association said after the announcement.
The National Farmer’s Union was also quick to
voice their concern. “Our membership has repeatedly
stated its call for the database to be maintained within
the public agency domain,” said NFU President
Both leaders worried about a conflict of interest,
possible political corruption and a loss of industry
secrets. “It concerns us greatly that USDA would
entrust such a sensitive responsibility to private organizations
that may have political motivation and aspirations,”
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns said privacy
concerns were considered. “After hearing the confidentiality
concerns of producers,” he said in the statement.
“We envision a system that allows these databases
to feed a single, privately held animal-tracking repository
that we can access."
But producers were not convinced. “This kind
of responsibility should fall to animal health officials
in the USDA, state animal health authorities, and tribal
governments who are already charged with maintaining
both the health and welfare of livestock and the American
people,” said Kiker. “Only these publicly
accountable officials should have access to this information
for controlling a disease outbreak.”