The Animal Health Protection Act, passed as part of the 2002 farm bill, gives USDA the authority to develop a national animal identification system. However, the department's lawyers are looking into whether USDA has the legal authority to institute a mandatory system operated by private entities.
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns is pushing for a private-run NAIS that state and federal governments could have access to at no cost. The push for a national identification system skyrocketed after the first U.S. bovine spongiform encephalopathy find in Washington state in 2003.
Neil Hammerschmidt, coordinator of the proposed National Animal Identification System at USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, told attendees at the R-CALF annual meeting that "USDA officials are working on the assumption that the program would be 'self-policing' rather than require inspection and enforcement by USDA employees," according to a CongressDaily article.