More answers are starting to unfold in the National Animal Identification System arena. USDA announced this week its willingness to link to a network of private and state-operated animal tracking databases. And a newly announced animal ID consortium may be one of those databases.
Charles Miller, chairman of the newly formed United States Animal Identification Organization, says the consortium is a nonprofit, independent organization working with every segment of animal industry and animal health authorities to manage the industry-led animal identification movement database as prescribed by the NAIS plan.
Current board members include a cow-calf producer from Kentucky, a beef producer from Idaho and a Nebraska bison producer. Miller says the board of directors will be expanded as various industry groups formally adopt the USAIO as their database repository for animal movement data needed for the NAIS.
USDA's new approach for a national animal identification system would allow the department to link to a network of private and state-operated animal tracking databases, Dr. John Clifford, USDA's chief veterinarian, said at this week's American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting conference.
The system would allow USDA to tap into a portal of various animal identification and tracking systems run by commodity groups or other organizations, as well as into 20 existing state databases.
The new approach retains the critical components of a national database already established by USDA: premises registration, animal identification (individual or by groups/lots) and animal tracking.
"The concept will allow us to enter into agreements with the different entities responsible for the different databases," Clifford explains.
The agreement will define the legal responsibility of all parties involved regarding the systemâ€™s specifications, which USDA has determined will be reliability, uninterrupted access for state health officials and no user fees for states or federal entities accessing the system.
"It will also define the necessary safeguards to preserve the data if the organization or company ceases to maintain that database," he continues.
Clifford emphasized that the agency is now only considering the feasibility of this approach, but said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns strongly supports the idea.
While the stakeholders involved in the animal identification debate are a diverse lot, the cost of developing, implementing and maintaining a system is a concern shared by all.
Kirk Ferrell, vice president of public policy for the National Pork Producers Council, also speaking at the conference, supported adapting an existing federal program for eradicating pseudorabies in swine to meet national animal identification requirements, but stressed that regardless of the approach chosen, it should not result in an additional cost for pork producers.
Similarly, at the top of the list of concerns for Scott Stewart, president and CEO of the National Livestock Producers Association, are the expenses associated with creating and supporting the necessary technology, as well as the labor costs tied to managing data and tagging animals.
Jay Truitt, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemenâ€™s Beef Association, says his organization is working on a cattle industry-specific system that will minimize costs and regulatory burdens for producers.
Truitt said NCBA is testing a system developed in conjunction with Microsoft, Biotrace and Hewlett-Packard. The system, which the federal government will have access to, will eventually be turned over to a private entity.