Agriculture unveils draft for animal ID system

The Agriculture Department released a draft plan for tracking animal movements, as part of an effort to speed its response to potential disease outbreaks, such as mad-cow disease. The National Animal Identification System would identify and track animals from birth to death.

Agriculture posted the proposal, which includes standards and a timeline, in today's Federal Register.

The department will determine system standards over time through field trials, user experience and the federal rulemaking process, said Agriculture secretary Mike Johanns.

The department plans to roll out the ID system in phases. The primary activity currently is registering premises, or the locations where livestock are raised or held. Next, Agriculture will implement a means to identify animals in the system. Cattle will require individual ID numbers, which will be attached to the animal with a tag or device. The animal ID number may be cross-referenced or linked to other technologies, such as radio frequency identification or retinal image to verify its identity.

Documents explaining the proposal, at http://www.usda.gov/nais, lay out projected timelines and potential paths to achieve system milestones, for example, requiring farmers and ranchers to identify premises and animals according to National Animal Identification System standards by January 2008. Agriculture proposed requiring that they record defined animal movements by January 2009.

'The documents we're releasing today offer a draft plan to move the public discussion forward on this important initiative,' Johanns said in a statement yesterday.

Farmers, ranchers and other interested parties have expressed concern about funding, confidentiality of data and flexibility of the system. Agriculture is seeking comments by June 6.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the agency that manages the system within Agriculture, received $33 million this year and nearly $19 million last year to support the program.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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