August 27, 2011
On Thursday, August 11, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a proposed rule with national official identification and documentation requirements for the traceability of livestock moving interstate. Animals covered by the proposed rule include cattle, bison, sheep, goats, swine, horses and other equines, captive cervids and poultry. USDA’s stated purpose for implementing the rule is to improve the agency’s ability to locate animals that may be infected with or exposed to an animal disease.
USDA initially proposed a National Animal Identification System (NAIS) in 2004, which included registration of all premises where livestock and poultry are housed or kept, a national registry for animals and proposals for costly high-tech tags and other individual identification technologies. There was loud and prolonged resistance to the proposed system, including its one-size fits all approach, national registry, and detailed recordkeeping requirements as well as the potential cost to individual farmers and ranchers.
The current proposed rule does allow more flexibility and relies more upon the states and Tribes for its administration. The proposed rule’s requirements would not apply to the intrastate movement of covered livestock and poultry or the movement of livestock and poultry onto or from Tribal lands if there is not interstate movement of the livestock and poultry. The proposed rule specifies certain methods and devices for identifying animals that vary by species. Other forms of identification are allowed if both the shipping and receiving states or Tribes agree to the form of identification.
The proposed rule does not add requirements to existing programs for tracing swine, sheep and goats, captive cervids, and commercial poultry, except for new traceability requirements for poultry moved interstate to live poultry markets. It also provides new requirements for traceability of cattle.
Most of the animal species covered by the proposed rule would be required to have individual eartags or other identifier. An exception is made for poultry and swine that move through a production chain as a group – a common practice in large-scale confined animal feeding operations where growers are provided a flock of chickens or herd of pigs to grow-out before the animals are sent to slaughter. The proposed rule does require that animals subject to the proposed rule be accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection, with some exceptions including an exception for cattle moving interstate directly to slaughter.
Response to the proposed rule has been mixed. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson stated in a press release that the proposal is a step in the right direction. He particularly approved of USDA giving implementation authority to states and tribes. But the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) issued a press release with strong objections to the proposed rule including its requirements for identifying feeder young cattle and concerns about whether cattle brands will be recognized by all states under the proposed rule. In a press release issued in June 2011, Food and Water Watch noted that USDA should devote more time to the animal disease and human health risks arising from industrialized meat production, adding that if USDA devoted as much energy to preventing animal diseases as it has to promoting animal tracking, our food system would be in much better shape.
USDA has developed a question and answer document to provide an overview of the program and how it differs from NAIS. The USDA has also posted two other documents for the proposed rule:
Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted to USDA by November 9, 2011. You may submit comments over the web at the Federal eRulemaking Portal or by mail addressed to Docket No. APHIS-2009-0091, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.
Further information on the proposed rule is available from Neil Hammerschmidt, APHIS Program Manager, Animal Disease Traceability, ph: (301) 734-5571.