The consensus was loud and clear: The National Animal Identification System needs more focus and direction before it will be accepted by the U.S. livestock industry. In order for it to work, many believe it will also need to be mandatory.
More than 80% of participants at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture's ID-INFO EXPO 2006 in Kansas City suggested the USDA's NAIS implementation is behind expectations. Further, 78% of the more than 100 respondents said NAIS should be a mandatory program.
"We are not moving fast enough," said Gary Smith, Colorado State University meat scientist and industry advisor. "We have to ask ourselves the question, 'how long can we effectively compete without a nationally credible ID program that is authenticated by industry and government?' "
USDA initiated the implementation of NAIS in 2004 to help safeguard U.S. animal health. It is a cooperative state-federal-industry partnership to standardize and expand animal ID programs and practices to all livestock species and poultry. NAIS is being developed through the integration of three components - premises identification, animal ID and animal tracking. The long-term goal of the NAIS is to provide animal health officials with the capability to identify all livestock and premises that have had direct contact with a disease of concern within 48 hours after discovery.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, who delivered the keynote address at the NIAA meeting on Aug. 23, stressed the program will remain voluntary under his watch. He believes the marketplace will drive the implementation of NAIS through premium opportunities for producers.
Respondents named cost and confidentiality as two of the greatest hurdles to implementing NAIS; however, many noted progress is definitely being seen on those fronts. Secretary Johanns also noted these as two of the biggest areas USDA is focused on. According to Johanns, both of these issues are being addressed by allowing private data management companies to serve as suppliers for the program.
He said that information collected through NAIS will be kept confidential and used only in the event of a disease outbreak. Private vendors would collect and maintain the data, making it off-limits to federal open-records laws.
"It is not data that is controlled and owned by USDA, so we can protect confidentiality," Johanns said.
"Enhanced computer-based technology and the development of, and reduction in cost of radio frequency identification devices, have helped drive the program from a technology standpoint," says Scott Stuart, chairman of the NIAA board. "Competition in the market will encourage continual technology improvement and help to drive costs lower for our producers."
Participants agreed that using an easy, single-source-tracking solution would be the best option to help improve implementation of NAIS. They also suggested that recent technology improvements, including naming the first interim Animal Tracking Database provider, are the greatest success of the program to date.
Using veterinarians to serve as facilitators to encourage producer sign-up was the second most suggested option to improve NAIS implementation
More than 20% of the academia, federal and state officials, animal health and industry experts present at the NIAA ID-INFO EXPO responded to the survey. For more information on NAIS and the survey, visit www.animalagriculture.org.
Lofty goal for premises ID
Premises ID is the new "911 address" for animals. A premise is a physical location where animals are raised, held, managed, or exhibited. Premises include farms, veterinary clinics, stables, livestock markets, and processing facilities.
By registering your premises, livestock producers will receive timely and factual information about how to protect their animals during a disease outbreak, according to USDA-APHIS.
During a contagious disease outbreak, time is the enemy. The longer it takes to pinpoint the origin of an outbreak, the more animals are exposed, the more premises become involved, and the more money it costs to contain the disease. Premises registration helps animal health officials respond to an emergency more effectively. Early detection and a rapid response result in the quick containment of a disease and fewer production interruptions for the producer.
Many state veterinarian offices are actively pursing premises ID registration. To date, some 300,000 premises registrations have been recorded. The NAIS goal is to have at least 550,000, or 25%, of premises registered by January 2007; 100% by January 2009, according to Dore Mobley, public affairs specialist for USDA-APHIS.