On Wednesday the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry will hold a public hearing the National Animal Identification System. USDA has received over $100 million dollars since the program was formed in 2004 and the purpose of the hearing is to see what USDA has done with that money and what they have gotten in return. A senior aide to the House Ag Committee says it will be a general overview looking at how many premises have been registered and if there has been an improvement in the prospect of trace back in the event of a disease outbreak.
Formed in 2004, NAIS was a voluntary program that then-Ag Secretary Ann Veneman proposed move toward a mandatory program. When former Ag Secretary Mike Johanns took office in 2005 he favored keeping it a voluntary program. House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has been a stronger proponent of making the program mandatory, because that is what other industrialized nations involved in animal agriculture engage in.
According to the aide, Peterson has said reviewing the program is one of the Agriculture Committee's top priorities this year and several public hearings will be held on the topic. Although a witness list has not yet been released; in addition to the USDA program manager, the aide expects testimony will be given by livestock industry groups, representatives of states that have mandatory identification programs, and possibly animal health experts.
"It is something the chairman has wanted to look into for awhile, but he said openly over the past couple of years that he had given up on working with the Bush Administration on this and he was going to wait for new people to come in," the aide said. "Although they are still staffing up a lot of the key positions at USDA, he thinks the time is right to at least start a review of what the program has done to this point and how it needs to be changed."