Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman in April announced the framework for implementation of a National Animal Identification System to identify any agricultural premise exposed to a foreign animal disease so that the disease can be quickly contained and eradicated.
Veneman also announced that $18.8 million would be provided as initial funding for the program during FY 2004. The funding is earmarked for the initial infrastructure development and implementation of the national system. The Bush administration's proposed FY 2005 budget includes another $33 million for the effort. But the secretary noted that private and public support would be required to make the program fully operational.
The ability to track animal movement is essential to stopping the spread of foot-and-mouth disease virus and other
"While many livestock species in the United States can be identified through a variety of systems, a verifiable system of national animal identification will enhance our efforts to respond to intentionally or unintentionally introduced animal disease outbreaks more quickly and effectively," Veneman said.
"This framework is the result of concerted efforts to expedite the implementation of a system that meets our goals, and enables farmers and ranchers to adapt existing identification programs and to use all existing forms of effective technologies," she added.
Testifying before the House Agriculture Committee March 5, Jan Lyons, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said a cost-sharing program between federal and state governments and producers would be most appropriate.
Costs for full implementation of the animal identification program are estimated at $545 million over six years, Lyons said.
The Kansas cattle producer also proposed a solution to the controversy about confidentiality of producer information. Producers are extremely concerned that the information that becomes part of an animal identification system could fall into the hands of those who would use it illicitly.
"For these reasons," she said, "NCBA believes that any information provided by producers for the animal identification system should be exempt from release under (the Freedom of Information Act).
"Making the Privacy Act apply to data provided under this system would add an additional layer of protection for producer privacy."
The implementation of a program will be conducted in three main phases, Veneman said. Under Phase I, the USDA will evaluate current federally funded animal identification systems and determine which system(s) should be used.
Producers and other stakeholders will be consulted regarding the operation of the system(s). This entails identifying staffing needs and developing regulatory and legislative proposals needed for implementing the system(s).
Phase II involves implementing of the selected animal identification system(s) at regional levels for one or more selected species, continuing of the communication and education effort, addressing regulatory needs, and working with Congress on any needed legislation.
In Phase III, the selected animal identification system(s) would be scaled up to the national level.
Veneman said the first step in the overall process is to select an interim data repository to handle information from national premises. The USDA has commissioned an independent analysis of repositories that are part of various USDA-funded animal identification projects around the country.
Once the system is identified that shows greatest potential for use on a national level, the USDA will enter into cooperative agreements with states, Indian tribes, and other governmental entities to assist them in adapting their existing systems to the new system.
A copy of the proposed identification plan and other information are posted is available at www.usaip.info.