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 Dave Frederickson.
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,” said Kiker.
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.”