The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) said today that the Agricultural Appropriations conference committee report cutting funding by more than 60 percent for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is welcome news. The conference agreement allocates just $5.3 million for NAIS, a reduction of nearly two-thirds from the $14.6 million requested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"This dramatic reduction in funding signals that Congress is listening to producer concerns with, and objections to, NAIS," commented Jon Wooster, USCA President. "The conference report notes that after an investment of $142 million since FY2004, the agency has only registered about 37 percent of all premises, far below the program’s goals. Conferees wisely recognized that investing heavily in the program is irresponsible, given the lack of producer support."

A bipartisan amendment, introduced in the U.S. Senate earlier this year by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), proposed cutting in half the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s request for $14.6 million for FY2010. The amendment passed unanimously out of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee and subsequently passed in the full Senate by a vote of 80:17. In comments following the vote, Senator Enzi said the funds left intact for the program provided reasonable funding for an animal identification program based on voluntary participation.

"We are extremely pleased and encouraged with the conference report," continued Wooster. "USCA has contended all along that NAIS should be voluntary in nature and we’ve successfully expended countless resources to prevent the program from being implemented as mandatory. We extend our gratitude to the conferees and to Senators Tester and Enzi who led the charge to de-fund such a highly unpopular program."

"We would like to thank the many cattlemen and women who traveled to Washington, DC with USCA to help Congress understand that while the vast majority of the industry appreciates the use of current, established programs for animal disease trace back they do not support a mandatory animal identification program."