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Jan 28, 2006
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Industry News - PM
Congressional hearing debates making animal ID mandatory

By Janie Gabbett on 3/12/2009

Industry representatives, legislators and administration officials argued the pros and cons of making USDA's currently voluntary National Animal Identification System (NAIS) mandatory at a held Wednesday by the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, according to media reports.

"I believe a mandatory system is necessary," subcommittee chairman Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) told the hearing, saying it would aid in tracking infected animals to prevent disease from spreading and give the government a vital tool in maintaining the safety and integrity of the food supply.

His sentiment was echoed by full-committee chairman Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) who said the voluntary system is not working. "A mandatory animal ID system is crucial in order to avoid the economic consequences of a major animal disease outbreak," he is reported to have said.

The congressmen's views were echoed by American Veterinary Medical Association Executive Vice President W. Ron DeHaven, who told the subcommittee a mandatory national program would be the most effective way to minimize the effects of an animal disease outbreak.

Taking the opposite view, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) regional director Max Thornsberry, who is also a veterinarian, told the subcommittee that a mandatory national animal ID system would do nothing to improve food safety, pointing to slaughter facilities as the point at which pathogens such as E. coli O157.H7 become a food safety issue.

USDA's chief veterinarian John Clifford told the panel it would take three to four years and $160 million to $190 million to create a mandatory system including usefully compiled data. While not specifically backing a single way forward, Clifford did say the current voluntary system is not working, according to Reuters.

Also on Wednesday, Congress passed the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, which awarded USDA an additional $14.5 million so it could continue its pursuit of a viable traceback system.

Alberta farmer

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Nov 13, 2008
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It looks to me like the US cattleman is going to get mandatory traceback whether he likes it or not? Never underestimate the determination of the government beurocrat! If his pet project is thwarted he will find another way to get it implemented. The writing is on the wall boys...get out those ear taggers and get ready to do a pile of paperwork!

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