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Friday, December 10, 2010

Animal Identification and Traceability: Overview and Issues

Joel L. Greene
Analyst in Agricultural Policy

Animal identification (ID) refers to keeping records on individual farm animals or groups of farm animals so that they can be easily tracked from their birth through the marketing chain. Historically, animal ID was used to indicate ownership and prevent theft, but the reasons for identifying and tracking animals have evolved to include rapid response to animal health and/or food safety concerns. As such, traceability is limited specifically to movements from the animal’s point of birth to its slaughter and processing location.

On February 5, 2010, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that USDA was revising its approach to achieving a national capability for animal disease traceability. The previous plan, called the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), first proposed in 2002, was being abandoned. In its place USDA proposed a new approach—Animal Disease Traceability—that will allow individual states and tribal nations to choose their own degree of within-state animal identification and traceability for livestock populations. The within-state programs are intended to be implemented by the states and tribal nations, not the federal government. As such, any data collection and storage would be done by state, not federal, authorities. The flexibility is intended to allow each state or tribal nation to respond to its own producer needs and interests.

However, under the proposed revision USDA will require that all animals moving in interstate commerce have a form of ID that allows traceability back to their originating state or tribal nation. The Secretary of Agriculture derives the authority to regulate interstate movement of farm-raised livestock from Section 10406 of the Animal Health Protection Act (P.L. 107-171, Subtitle E; 7 U.S.C. 8305).

The larger program governing traceability of interstate animal movements and coordination between different states and tribal nations will be implemented in federal regulations through the federal rulemaking process. Since the February announcement, USDA has held a series of public meetings for animal health officials and producers to provide opportunities for discussion and feedback. USDA expects to issue a proposed rule in April 2011, and a final rule could be released 12 to 15 months later.

Since 2004, USDA had spent $150 million trying to get NAIS up and running. Since 2008, key committee leaders in Congress had expressed frustration with the slow pace of NAIS implementation and, as a result, had reduced annual funding appropriations for the program. USDA’s decision to revise NAIS was made after a series of 15 listening sessions across the country in 2009, and after receiving thousands of comments concerning NAIS. While the poultry and pork industries have endorsed a mandatory national animal ID program in general, certain portions of the U.S. cattle industry have shown strong resistance to what they perceive as a costly government intrusion in their private affairs. Participation in the initial phase of NAIS, premises registration, reflected this same degree of interest, as very high percentages of eligible premises were registered for most major animal species—poultry (95%), sheep (95%), swine (80%), goats (60%), and horses (50%)—with the exception of cattle (18%). USDA stated that such a low participation rate for cattle rendered NAIS ineffective as a tool for controlling animal disease, and that a much higher participation rate would be necessary to respond effectively to an animal disease outbreak. Under the new proposal, USDA anticipates much higher participation rates.

Lawmakers in the 112
th Congress will continue to monitor USDA’s work on animal ID and traceability, and could propose legislation aimed at shaping its scope, design, and pace of implementation, as well as possible federal financial support of state-level programs.

Date of Report: November 29, 2010
Number of Pages: 51
Order Number: R40832
Price: $29.95

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