By: Staff  Date: 01/15/2012 Category: | Farm and Ranch Almanac |

I have seen quite a few alarming emails regarding the plan to identify livestock in the United States. The US Animal Identification Plan (USAIP) has been developed by a team representing the nation's largest livestock groups and focuses on enhancing the nation's ability to locate and trace individual animals and/or groups of animals within 48 hours if an animal health emergency should arise. This plan has been in the making for quite some time and the cattle, swine and other industries that are affected by outbreaks of disease created the existing proposal.

Recently, two bills have been introduced into Congress that would require mandatory ID of all livestock, including horses within a short period of time after passage. These are only proposed bills at this point, but if passed, the whole process of identifying all livestock, including horses, would go forward quickly. That said, there is still no concrete plan to identify all horses.

The existing USAIP plan has been accelerated since the first case of BSE has been detected in the U.S. and many of the cattle originally imported from Canada with the BSE infected cow cannot be found. For this and many other reasons, Congress, animal industry, law enforcement and others are calling for a way to quickly identify livestock in the case of a disease outbreak, bioterrorism or other event that would require quick identification. The full text of the proposed plan is available at: http://www.usaip.info

Two federal bills regarding animal ID introduced

US House Bill 3787: National Farm Animal Identification and Records Act
To amend the Animal Health Protection Act to require the establishment of an electronic nationwide livestock identification system, to prevent the unauthorized release of information collected under the system, to promote an objective review of Department of Agriculture responses to livestock disease outbreaks, and for other purposes. For bill information go to: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:h.r.03787: Status: 2/10/2004 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Agriculture.

US Senate Bill 2008 National Farm Animal Identification and Records ActTo amend the Animal Health Protection Act to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to establish an electronic nationwide livestock identification system, and for other purposes. For bill information go to: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:s.02008: Status: 1/20/2004 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

For more information on the two bills and surrounding issues, read: Animal ID may be the next big thing

The American Horse Council provided this background information after a USDA presentation at the American Horse Council Convention (before BSE was discovered in the US). It explains why the process of identifying livestock is so important.

Dr. Valerie Ragan, Assistant Deputy Administrator, Veterinary Services, US Department of Agriculture (USDA), provided an overview on the status and rationale for the development of a national animal identification system. Dr. Ragan noted that the overriding rationale for a national ID system is "to protect the national herd, not only against emergency disease incursions, but also against routine domestic diseases to get them under better control."

A foreign disease could be introduced into the US, either accidentally or possible intentionally, she noted. "Being able to isolate the animals exposed and documenting where they have been would be extremely important in limiting the effects on the US of any disease introduction," Dr. Ragan said.

In response to this concern, the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) organized an Animal Identification Task Force some years ago and it has prepared an initial work plan for different species group. The long-term objective of the plan is "to be able to identify all premises and all animals that have had contact with a disease of concern within 48 hours. Now it takes anywhere from a few days to several months," Dr. Ragan noted.

Dr. Ragan reported that plans are progressing rapidly at this point in the other livestock sectors. The focus is "on cattle and swine at the present time because those species are at the highest risks for disease situations. We are not developing an equine identification system, we are not even there yet," Dr. Ragan said.

Dr. Ragan recognized there is a lot of concern about who will have access to what data and that is justified. "We are trying to build onto systems already in place and kept by producers. But we don't need all information in those systems, only key pieces of information that will allow us to track an animal in case of a disease outbreak. For example, production records will not be made available to USDA."

Dr. Ragan noted that there are plans "to expand into other sectors, like equine and aquaculture. Nothing is mandatory at this stage. We must have a system in place that is tried, and tested and proven and there is a reason for it before it might be made mandatory," she concluded. "We will be developing this and we encourage you to look at this effort and decide if you want to join in. We are happy to work with you if you do."

The horse industry
Currently, there is no specific language in the USAIP that requires horses to be identified. However, if the two bills currently in congress are passed without amendment a plan would need to be put into place quickly. Please read the information from the American Horse Council (AHC) on the possibility of the horse industry being involved in this plan. It can be located on their web site at: www.horsecouncil.org under latest news. Some of the information that has been circulating says that a plan for horse identification is already in the works. The American Horse Council has created a task force of representatives from the horse industry to study this subject and AHC will continue discussions with the USDA. If such a mandatory plan seems inevitable, AHC will continue to work to make sure the industry shapes such a plan. Currently, the horse industry in Canada is working to create a plan and present it to its members for approval.

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All Authors Of This Article: | Cindy Schonholtz |
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