In an informational hearing last week, Canadian and Australian officials detailed their experience developing and implementing national animal identification system. The hearing was held in anticipation of the development of a National Animal Identification System (NAIS) in the United States.
Cattle industry leaders and government officials from Canada and Australia told members of the House Ag Committee how their private-based animal ID systems have been effective. Witnesses say producer support, a phased-in approach, competitive pricing for ID tags, and minimizing the role of government were key to their nation's success in identifying food animals.
Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.., noted that he prefers a private-sector-based approach. "Among the reasons I have been an advocate of a private sector-based approach to animal ID is the success of the Canadian and Australian Systems. In a relatively short period of time, both nations have moved forward systems that are the envy of many in the international livestock community, and I think their experience in developing these systems is well worth our time and attention," he says.
"Cattle producers in Australian and Canada have the same concerns that our producers have here in the United States - concerns that producer rights and confidentiality be protected," says Jay Truitt, National Cattlemen's Beef Association vice president of government affairs. "These concerns are being addressed through programs coordinated in the private sector while meeting the goal of nationwide animal health surveillance."
In a letter sent to USDA July 20, key members of the House Ag Committee urged implementation of a private sector-based national animal identification system in the United States and cited examples of existing ID programs in Canada, Australia and Switzerland. House leaders say these private sector-based systems - in partnership with government - "display qualities of thrift, flexibility and expediency."
"Coordinated by a comprehensive, multi-species consortium, the U.S. industry program can maximize producer participation across all livestock sectors, maintain producer confidentiality, achieve the 48-hour traceback capability and utilize existing and developing ID technologies," says Truitt. "This program was shaped in large part by the discussions we had with industry leaders in other countries, and we're grateful to be able to learn from their experience."