USDA Seeks Comments: Animal Disease Traceability

US - A proposed rule has been issued by the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to establish general regulations for improving the traceability of US livestock moving interstate when animal disease events take place.
calendar icon 10 August 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

"Through the past two years, I have listened carefully to stakeholders throughout the country about how to reach effective animal disease traceability in a transparent manner without additional burden," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"We are proposing a flexible approach in which states and tribes can develop systems for tracing animals that work best for them and for producers in their jurisdiction. This approach offers great flexibility at the state and local level and addresses gaps in our disease response efforts."

Under the proposed rule, unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate would have to be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates.

The proposed rule encourages the use of low-cost technology and specifies approved forms of official identification for each species, such as metal eartags for cattle. However, recognising the importance and prevalence of other identifications in certain regions, shipping and receiving states or tribes are permitted to agree upon alternative forms of identification such as brands or tattoos.

"Our proposal strives to meet the diverse needs of the animal agriculture industry and our State and tribal partners, while also helping us all reach our goal of increased animal disease traceability," said chief veterinary officer for the US, Dr John Clifford.

"We believe reaching our goals on traceability will help save the industry and American taxpayer's money in the long term."

Chief Veterinarian for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), Elizabeth Parker, commented: “Cattlemen’s top priority is raising healthy cattle. As such, NCBA is supportive of an ADT programme for cattle health purposes."

"That is why NCBA has been an industry leader working diligently with other cattle groups and USDA’s APHIS to ensure cattlemen’s concerns are addressed in a new ADT programme."

“NCBA commends APHIS for its recent efforts to listen to concerns of America’s cattlemen in developing this traceability programme. NCBA encourages the agency to continue working with industry leaders on this and all animal health issues."

"We will carefully analyze and comment on APHIS’s proposed ADT rule. NCBA will continue to actively work with like-minded industry groups, state animal health officials and APHIS throughout the entire rulemaking process to ensure the best interests of our members.”

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), that has been a strong advocate for animal traceability for several years, commented that it was pleased with the announcement.

The NPPC said, the ability to quickly trace diseased and exposed animals during a foreign animal disease outbreak would save millions of animals, lessen the financial burden on the industry and save the American taxpayer millions of dollars. With support from all sectors of the pork industry, approximately 95 per cent of pork producer’s premises are already registered under the USDA livestock identification programme.

This is a significant step in formalising an animal traceability programme and the pork industry is grateful for USDA’s effort. The industry also looks forward to the opportunity to comment on the proposed new rule and to the publication of a final animal traceability rule.

“An effective traceability programme would allow US pork to compete more effectively in the international market place with those countries that have already implemented traceability programmes” said Doug Wolf, NPPC’s President.

Animal disease traceability, or knowing where diseased and at-risk animals are, where they've been, and when, is very important to make sure there can be a rapid response when animal disease events take place. An efficient and accurate animal disease traceability system helps reduce the number of animals involved in an investigation, reduces the time needed to respond, and decreases the cost to producers and the government.

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