"We need you involved," implored Bruce Knight, USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, in his speech Monday to members of the American Farm Bureau Federation during their annual meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Knight, the former chief of the NRCS, has been in charge of the National Animal Identification System for five months. "One of the first things I had to tackle when I took this job was to get past the debate on whether the system would be mandatory or voluntary," said Knight. "The debate was dragging on and we weren't making progress. Now, the decision has been made. It is voluntary and we can move forward."
NAIDS is designed to protect our nation's animal health and to protect livestock producers' businesses, explained Knight. "In the long term it will also help protect our overseas markets and help protect neighboring countries."
"The threat of an animal disease outbreak in today's world is real," continued Knight. "It is simply not possible to completely eliminate the threat of a foreign animal disease entering our country." He cited agro-terrorism as a potential source.
In his speech at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting, Bruce Knight, USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, repeatedly emphasized the national animal identification program is voluntary.
The first step starts at the local community, noted the undersecretary. "That's premise registration. It's free and simple. We won't ask for any more information that what's in the telephone book. Registering your premise will enable us to get information to you as quickly as possible in the event of an outbreak."
Second step is animal identification followed by animal tracking and tracing. "Producers have the choice as to what extent they want to participate. The key is still the first component. We need everyone on board to make this work."
Knight promised USDA would do everything possible to keep all data collected confidential. "Safeguards are built into the system to make sure all information is secure. The information will only be accessed in the case of an outbreak."
"We have gone through the toughest part of this process - the time of confusion," said Knight. "The structure is in place now and that will end a lot of the confusion."
He admitted, however, there is still much work to be done. "We need to get all the premise identification in place and we still have decisions to make and bugs to work out of the system. NAIDS will work in protecting our animal agriculture system. But, we need everyone to participate," implored Knight. "The threat of an animal disease outbreak is size-neutral. Eventually, it will be as important to get small producers to participate as well as the large producers."