Key members of the House Ag Committee sent a letter to USDA Secretary Mike Johanns July 20 requesting implementation of a private sector-based national animal identification system. 

The letter, signed by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), and Representatives Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), Tom Osborne (R-Neb.), Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), and K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) says, “We think private animal ID systems will speed the process of implementing a national ID program, enhance U.S. markets and add value to U.S. livestock.”

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) has led the effort to implement a private-sector, multi-species ID program for livestock because it wants to protect producer rights and confidentiality.  Animal health authorities will be able to access the private-sector database for appropriate animal health concerns, but the data will remain the property of the individual and stored in a multi-species consortium to maintain confidentiality. 

NCBA’s Animal ID Commission announced July 6 the selection of a technology partner to develop the data storage infrastructure for the industry-led ID program.  Pending a final agreement, NCBA says the team, led by BearingPoint, Inc. (NYSE:BE), is expected to Beta test the system by October 2005 and be fully operational by January 1, 2006.  This timeframe is far more expedient than plans by USDA to implement a government-run system.

The House members’ letter says, “There has been a disappointing lack of consideration of a private sector-based approach to the animal identification challenge.  This is unfortunate because experience suggests that private-based systems have allowed other nations to implement ID systems swiftly and inexpensively while still maximizing the benefit to producers and the utility for government regulators.”

Pointing to examples of existing private-sector ID programs in Canada, Australia and Switzerland, the House members point out, “Since other nations have been able to implement private sector-based systems - in partnership with government - which display qualities of thrift, flexibility and expediency, we are disappointed that such a solution is not being pursued in the United States.”

Representatives from NCBA’s Animal ID Commission and BearingPoint will lead a discussion with cattlemen from around the country on this issue at next week’s Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver.  The Animal ID Issues Forum is scheduled for July 28 and will consist of three consecutive hour-long sessions from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon (Mountain time). 

Find more information on NCBA’s efforts to implement a national animal identification system at: http://www.beefusa.org/AnimalID.aspx.

NCBA