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Agriculture Today

Animal traceability proposed rules released

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Wilson County News
August 24, 2011 | 2,795 views | Post a comment

Under the new rules, only animals moved interstate -- across state lines -- are subject to an official identification, such as tags.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The much-anticipated rules of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services Animal Disease Traceability Framework finally have been released.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and USDA Chief Veterinarian John Clifford held an Aug. 9 national media conference call to announce the proposed traceability plan.

The program, first announced in February 2010, is a revised version of the former National Animal Identification System. This revision emphasizes that only animals moved interstate are required to have identification and the program will be administered by the state. It also outlines the use of low-cost technology, such as Brite tags, and establishes transparency within the federal government.

These regulations were compiled from feedback from eight public meetings and additional comments received from the industry.

Under the new rules, only animals moved interstate -- across state lines -- are subject to an official identification, such as tags, and must be accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection (ICVI) or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statement or a brand certificate. Exemptions are included in the program, such as animals crossing state lines for slaughter purposes only.

The reason for this program, according to Vilsack, is the large number of cattle -- listed in the thousands -- that are being tested, due to a lack of official identification. He cited cattle tuberculosis as an example, for which 150 days are needed for a disease investigation by federal and state officials.

Vilsack stated the proposed changes are more workable and feasible for the small producer.

Funding for the program and branding were addressed during a question-and-answer session following the announcement.

Vilsack said the anticipated costs to the cattle industry of $14.5 million annually for ranchers will be in full compliance. He said this is a “wise investment” that will open more export markets.

Clifford addressed the branding issue. He explained that for branding to be included as an “official” form of identification, all 50 states must accept it. Currently, only 14 states use branding as an official identification. If an animal is moved between two states that recognize branding as official, then branding will be allowed as a means for interstate movement, he said.

Movement of animals through auction barns also was addressed during the conference call. Clifford stated that the groups have worked with members of the cattle industry and marketing associations on this issue. He said that the proposed rule will not impede commerce and the veterinary certificates will be given after the sale for animals moving interstate.

This issue was raised during the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Horn Wrap conference call Aug. 16, when Neil Hammerschmidt, Animal Disease Traceability USDA/APHIS/VS program manager, addressed the proposed rules.

Hammerschmidt said the proposed changes are “practical” and the changes in the auctions will be “minimal.” He added that only licensed veterinarians may issue interstate certificates of veterinary inspection and said to refer back to exemptions that apply for shipment of animals across state lines to see if the interstate certificates of veterinary inspections are needed.

As the proposed rules are being released, state health officials also are inviting producer input.

“The ability to track where diseased or at-risk animals have gone or been moved from, is critical in ensuring a rapid response should an animal disease event take place. We encourage all interested stakeholders to comment on this proposed rule,” said Dee Ellis, DVM, executive director of the Texas Animal Health Commission, in an Aug. 11 press release.

The proposed 114 pages of rules were posted in the Aug. 12 Federal Register. For comment submission, visit http://bit.ly/oftrdT.

More on the proposed plans will be addressed in an upcoming issue of the Wilson County News.

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