USDA Wants Private Companies to Store NAIS Data

After hearing the confidentiality concerns of producers, USDA envisions a system that allows these databases to feed a single, privately held animal-tracking repository that USDA can access. Jacqui Fatka

Published on: Aug 30, 2005

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced Tuesday that the driving principal behind USDA’s new National Animal Identification System (NAIS) will enable private companies to store data on animal movement and will provide vital and timely information to officials investigating any potential future irregularities in the food supply.

"After hearing the confidentiality concerns of producers, we envision a system that allows these databases to feed a single, privately held animal-tracking repository that we can access," he says.

There are a number of concepts being discussed in the private sector about how this should work and how it should be funded, Johanns told reporters Tuesday. "USDA is not favoring any one of them over the other. USDA will be scheduling a stakeholder meeting this fall to clarify expectations for the private tracking system and discuss user requirements in system specifications," he says. 

Johanns says in the meantime, USDA will be finalizing and releasing the program standards that were presented in the thinking paper. "Beyond that, we will be looking to industry to come together to drive this leg of the journey," Johanns says.

USDA’s guiding principles for NAIS include mandates to ensure flexibility and adaptability while avoiding undue burden on producers and undue government intrusion. The four guiding principles for the NAIS are:

  • The system must be able to allow tracking of animals from point of origin to processing within 48 hours without unnecessary burden to producers and other stakeholders.
  • The system's architecture must be developed without unduly increasing the size and role of government.
  • The system must be flexible enough to utilize existing technologies and incorporate new identification technologies as they are developed.
  • Animal movement data should be maintained in a private system that can be readily accessed when necessary by state and federal animal health authorities.

Mixed feelings on privatization

National Farmers Union President Dave Frederickson says his membership has repeatedly called for the database to be maintained within the public agency domain. "Private control of producer information creates an inherent risk to producers that private and/or proprietary information could be divulged in a manner that could be detrimental to producers, firms and the marketplace," he says.

Both the National Cattlemen's Beef Producers and National Pork Producers Council voiced strong support for the secretary's announcement. President Elect Joy Philippi says the swine industry will use the existing mandatory Pseudorabies Eradication program standards as the model for a national swine identification system. "This will ensure that the swine industry is able to build on a proven and effective program that has been developed, implemented and accepted by pork producers, and federal and state partners and one in which costs have already been built into the pork production system," Philippi says. 

Mike John, NCBA president-elect and chairman of NCBA's Animal Identification Commission, says, "NCBA believes protection of producers' rights and confidentiality is a top priority, and the industry is best equipped to do this. Under this private-sector system, animal health authorities will be able to receive information for appropriate animal health concerns, but the data will remain the property of the individual and managed by a non-profit multi-species consortium to maintain confidentiality.