Mixed Feelings Expressed on National Animal ID System

NCBA and Farm Bureau voice support while National Farmers Union says USDA is on the wrong track.

Published on: Sep 30, 2005

Livestock producers expressed their perspectives on livestock identification and, specifically, what progress is being made with implementing the National Animal Identification System, at a House Ag Subcommittee on Horticulture and Livestock hearing Wednesday.

Rick Stott, Idaho cattle producer and member of National Cattlemen’s Beef Association's Animal ID Commission gave members of the House Ag Subcommittee on Horticulture and Livestock an update Wednesday on development of a privately-coordinated database to support the NAIS.

Stott says current efforts are focused on developing a national database implementation strategy and assembling an independent, multi-species, non-profit consortium to administer the program. "The largest impact, both good and bad, will be borne by the industry. Therefore, the industry should be responsible for the system," says Stott. "With representation from all sectors of the livestock industry, the consortium will have ultimate oversight responsibility."

NCBA says the private-sector system will minimize the barriers of compliance, is more likely to mirror the natural flow of commerce, will enlist the most efficient technology available and evolve as the industry evolves, while providing animal health authorities with the information they require in a timely manner. "As a leader in the cattle industry," says Stott, "NCBA believes it has the responsibility to lead and support this effort."

Farm Bureau says NAIS needs producers involvement

Farm Bureau members support the basic system and progress being made for enacting the National Animal Identification System. A well-designed animal ID system would help contain and manage any new or deliberately introduced animal diseases in the United States, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

Stallman says AFBF strongly supports a single, centralized database to trace livestock movement, and he noted that some state Farm Bureaus already operate animal identification systems or partner with technology providers to offer programs as a service to members.

"Farm Bureau believes there are four key issues that must be addressed in order to ensure producer acceptance of an animal ID system regardless of how the database is maintained – the cost of the system, ensuring the confidentiality of data submitted by producers, protecting producers from undue liability and sufficient education/information," Stallman says.

NFU Afraid Farmers Will Bear Responsibility

Ohio Farmers Union President Joe Logan testified on behalf of NFU, and says the development and control of animal I.D. is a big concern to Farmers Union members. Logan urged that animal I.D. does not become another program in which American livestock producers foot the bill for the benefit of processors and retailers.

"Farmers are afraid they will be held financially responsible and legally liable for a system that may or may not achieve the goals of a 48-hour trace-back capability," Logan says.

National Farmers Union believes that USDA has taken a step in the wrong direction by allowing private entities to control the animal I.D. NFU President Dave Frederickson says he hopes that producer input and immediate congressional action will prevent this program from heading in that direction. "The best way to protect the privacy and security of livestock producers is to develop a federally maintained and controlled information database," Frederickson says.

Logan urged the subcommittee to consider having USDA’s Farm Service Agency take the lead role and responsibility in collecting and housing all confidential producer data and information. The FSA currently retains sensitive information about individual producers, has offices in most counties across the country, and has the experience in dealing with producers.