For the better part of a decade, the U.S. livestock industry has grappled with how to best identify, monitor and trace animals in the event of a major disease event. Dating back to December 2003 discovery of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in Washington State, the discussion has been lengthy, arduous and at times quite contentious.
The latest chapter in that story, it seems, is drawing to a close, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published its final Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) rule in the Federal Register today; the rule becomes effective Mar. 11, 2013.
As reported by my Feedstuffs colleague Jacqui Fatka, the rule has largely been welcomed by the livestock sector. Announced by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Dec. 20, 2012, the rule is viewed as a flexible approach that does not exert undue burden on the producer:
The final ADT rule establishes general regulations for improving the traceability of U.S. livestock moving interstate. The final rule follows a process in which livestock and agriculture stakeholders participated in a comment phase. Under the rule, unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate must be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates.
The final rule accepts the use of brands, tattoos and brand registration as official identification when accepted by the shipping and receiving states or tribes. Backtags will be accepted as an alternative to official eartags for cattle and bison moved directly to slaughter.
Many major livestock-producing countries, including Canada, the European Union and Japan, have implemented, or are implementing, animal traceability systems. And most meat-importing countries require such a systems as a condition for importing meat, the National Pork Producers Council pointed out.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association cheered the announcement, and applauded USDA for considering stakeholder comments and industry input during the rulemaking process.