December 01, 2009

 

 NAIS funding cut by two-thirds for 2010 fiscal year

posted November 18, 2009
 

The national animal traceability program will receive about a third as much money in the 2010 fiscal year as in the preceding year.

Unspent money from the previous fiscal year will be available for the program, but the Department of Agriculture had not determined the amount left over by press time.

Despite the funding cut, the U.S. House and Senate members who crafted the agriculture appropriations bill, which President Obama signed Oct. 21, indicated in a conference committee report they expect the USDA to show "demonstrable progress" in implementing the National Animal Identification System.

"If significant progress is not made, the conferees will consider eliminating funding for the program," the report states.

The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY2010 includes $5.3 million for the NAIS. Ed C. Curlett, a spokesman for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the system received $14.5 million in 2009, about $10 million in 2008, and about $33 million yearly in 2007 and 2006.

Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, AVMA CEO, said he shares the frustrations expressed by several members of Congress over the lack of progress in implementing the NAIS after six years of work and well more than $100 million invested.

"We've seen numerous comprehensive plans and time lines for implementation from the USDA, yet none of these plans or time lines has garnered sufficient political or public support to move forward in any substantive way," Dr. DeHaven said.

"Instead, under three different administrations, we have held three rounds of public listening sessions all across the country with no clear course forward emanating from this public discourse."

Dr. Harry O. Snelson, communications director for the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, said USDA officials indicated to him they expect about $5 million will be available from the previous fiscal year. That money will help the USDA keep cooperative agreements with states and fund premises registrations and data storage, but he does not think there will be funding to substantially expand registrations.

Curlett said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and USDA staff were reviewing information gathered during a national listening tour on the NAIS that took place in spring and summer 2009, and that information will be used to determine the direction for animal disease traceability efforts.

In public meetings and online comments, some food animal producers expressed opposition to a mandatory NAIS on the basis of their perceptions that the system will place a disproportionate financial burden on small producers, provide no benefits, endanger or invade their privacy, or violate their religious beliefs.

The AVMA has advocated for a mandatory NAIS rather than the current voluntary system. Dr. DeHaven said the position is well-founded given the money and time wasted on a voluntary system and the risks posed by disease.

Dr. M. Gatz Riddell, executive vice president of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, said it seems that substantial resistance to the NAIS among some producers is influencing their legislators' opinions on the system. But he thinks the government will eventually implement the mandatory electronic identification system needed to trace animal origins and movements quickly enough to avoid disasters caused by the introduction of foreign animal diseases.

"Until it becomes mandatory, you really can't expect the government to put much money behind it," Dr. Riddell said.