U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson (S.D.) this week shared the concerns of South Dakota's farmers and ranchers regarding the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Johnson is fighting to ensure the voices of the agriculture community are recognized as this federal program moves forward.
Addressing the successes of existing disease management programs, proper funding, the economic impact of a mandatory program and trade policies were all topics Johnson mentioned in his communications to Vilsack.
Existing disease management and tracking programs, in many instances, already accomplish the task of identifying livestock. As the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) pointed out in its comments to my office, for example, the national scrapie database has effectively identified more than 90 percent of the locations where sheep are present. This program functions to offer up cost-efficient, government-funded, metal tags for livestock; collects nothing more than basic information; and is achieving disease eradication in a species-specific manner that works well for the sheep sector.
What is also concerning is the difference in the amount of money the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projected would be needed for the scrapie program and that which USDA has requested from Congress. As outlined by ASI, an increase of $11.2 million is genuinely needed to ensure the program functions efficiently.
"I share many of the concerns South Dakotans have expressed, including overly cumbersome regulation and too heavy federal role, which would place a heavy burden on our family farms and ranches," continued Johnson.
Ultimately, no animal-disease mitigation efforts will be successful without respect to trade and the importation of livestock and product. Importation of meat and livestock from Argentina, cattle over 30 months of age from Canada and feeder cattle from Mexico, all carry a risk of introducing disease into the United States. Burdening U.S. producers with additional animal disease management regulations while continuing our current trade policies is a direct contradiction.