The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry held a hearing on Wednesday to review animal identification systems. Industry representatives, legislators and administration officials discussed the pros and cons of making the U.S. Department of Agriculture's currently voluntary National Animal Identification System (NAIS) mandatory.
"I believe a mandatory system is necessary and carries with it many benefits for producers, processors and consumers," Chairman David Scott (Ga.) said. "A mandatory system would let us know where infected animals are so that we could re-route transportation to prevent disease from spreading. It would help protect producers against the spread of minor animal diseases, as well as from the devastating economic effects of mad cow disease, foot-and-mouth disease and tuberculosis. Finally, it would save the government money and provide a vital tool in maintaining the safety and integrity of the food supply, which is of utmost concern to consumers."
"After five years of throwing over $100 million at a voluntary system, we are still in pretty much the same place," added full Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson (Minn.). "Even worse, many of the crucial aspects of the program show little promise of ever being substantially implemented. Agency staff have told us that the program, as currently structured, would never be effective in providing the country with a reliable trace-back system. The stakeholders out there need to get together and resolve their differences, a mandatory animal identification system is crucial in order to avoid the economic consequences of a major animal disease outbreak."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture established the NAIS in 2004 to enhance its existing animal health protection efforts by offering national standards and expanding the level of participation beyond what had been required in existing disease programs.
The committee heard testimony from three panels of witnesses representing agency administrators, producer groups, and foreign agricultural officials. Written testimony provided by the witnesses is available at http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/index.html.
Reprinted from AgPress