Bruce Knight, Undersecretary of Agriculture for marketing and regulatory programs, is a South Dakota rancher. Each year he looks at a number of factors and makes a business plan for his ranch. The USDA has brought that approach to the National Animal Identification System, releasing a draft of a Business Plan for Advancing Animal Disease Traceability on Wednesday. Knight says the plan is template for how NAIS will be managed for several years.
"It shows farmers and ranchers how they fit into the system and how the system benefits them," Knight says. "A catastrophic disease outbreak is unpredictable, we need to be prepared to handle it and a key is 48-hour traceability."
The business plan shows ways to achieve the goal of 48-hour traceability by using existing data from state and federal programs, improving communication between existing animal health programs, and identifying areas of opportunity. Knight says that the six existing disease eradication programs are a natural springboard for NAIS.
"We are basically at 48-hour traceability of poultry because of the National Poultry Improvement Plan and were very close to it with swine," Knight says. "We're about 80% there in sheep due to the National Scrapie Eradication program. Cattle, both beef and dairy, is where we have a lot of work to be done."
There are a lot of sectors within the cattle industry and the plan lays them out sector by sector to achieve 48-hour traceability.
"Dealing with an estimated 1.4 million farms that have livestock is a big challenge," Knight says. "But it becomes much more doable when it's broken down by species and by sector."
Knight says the most important thing to achieving 48-hour traceability if participation by producers in the premise registration. Currently about 30% of the nation's animal premises have been registered. Find out more about premise registration and see statistical date by clicking HERE.
"Under the traditional system, if we have a disease outbreak we start from where the disease was found or where the animal was harvested and trace back through that animal's life," Knight says. "If we also have premise registration and the place of birth of that animal, we can initiate a trace back from both birth and death and meet in the middle. That cuts your average trace back time in half and that's going to be vitally important to achieve 48-hour traceability."
Many producers and groups have expressed concern about premise registration and the possibility of it becoming a mandatory system. Knight says that the draft of the business plan shows that it is clearly a voluntary program.
"I see no reason to make it mandatory," Knight says. "We have a long history of success in the U.S. with voluntary programs. We're relying on producers to see that it's in their best interests and that it's the right thing to do."
Knight encourages producers to look at the draft of the business plan for NAIS at www.usda.gov/nais. He says they welcome comments and suggestions on ways to improve the program.
"Even if producers are skeptical about animal ID I encourage them to register," Knight says. "It's important in the event of a major disease outbreak. I'm a rancher myself, and I'm not asking anyone to do something I wouldn't do. Registration is fast, simple and it's free."