By KEVIN WALKER
WASHINGTON, D.C. — One area in which things became more clear rather than more muddled late last year was on the subject of animal disease traceability (ADT); on Dec. 20 the USDA issued its final rule laying out new guidelines for ADT. This happened 16 months after the USDA issued its proposed rule, in August 2011.
“With the final rule announced today, the United States now has a flexible, effective animal disease traceability system for livestock moving interstate, without undue burdens for ranchers and U.S. livestock businesses,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement Dec. 20. “The final rule meets the diverse needs of the countryside, where states and tribes can develop systems for tracking animals that work best for them and their producers, while addressing any gaps in our overall disease response efforts.
“Over the past several years, USDA has listened carefully to America’s farmers and ranchers, working collaboratively to establish a system of tools and safeguards that will help us target when and where animal diseases occur, and help us respond quickly.”
According to information provided by the USDA, high-quality animal traceability standards and practices have been sorely lacking, especially in the cattle industry. The cattle industry’s “inconsistent use of official identification, coupled with the significant movement of cattle interstate, warrants regulations that enhance the current traceability infrastructure,” says a statement from the department.
USDA said for sheep, traceability standards are already adequate because of traceability requirements established through the scrapie eradication program; therefore, the new rule will not affect sheep producers. Also, chicks that are moved interstate from a hatchery are exempt from official identification requirements under the new rule.
“The mechanics of the rule for poultry are unchanged under this rule,” said John Clifford, deputy administrator at the USDA’s veterinary services program, on Dec. 20.
He also said the approach outlined in the final rule makes animal disease traceability “workable and feasible” and provides a “common sense approach” for the country’s livestock producers, especially small-scale ones.
Under the new rule, livestock moved interstate will have to be officially identified and accompanied by an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI) or other documentation agreed on by the shipping and receiving states, such as an owner-shipper statement or brand certificate.
The USDA stated this program will be different from the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), which was discontinued because of low participation rates. The current program is designed to be more flexible and allow for state and local control, at least up to a point.
Some changes made after the proposed rule was announced and completion of the final rule include: acceptance of the use of brands, tattoos and brand registration as long as they are accepted by the shipping and receiving states or tribes; permanently maintaining the use of backtags as an alternative to eartags for cattle and bison moving directly to slaughter; acceptance of movement documentation other than an ICVI for all cattle, as long as it’s accepted by the shipping and receiving states or tribes; and an exemption for all livestock moving interstate that are going directly to a custom slaughter facility.
Also, beef cattle under 18 months of age, unless they are moved interstate for shows, exhibitions, rodeos or recreational events, are exempt from the official identification requirement in this rule. During a Dec. 20 stakeholder call, people from the cattle industry seemed to be happy with the final rule.
“I certainly think that this is a new program that we can get implemented in our livestock markets and hopefully throughout the livestock industry as a whole, and provides the kind of low-cost, efficient, flexible system that we all wanted from the beginning,” said Livestock Marketing Assoc. Vice President Nancy Robinson.
“We have been supportive of a mandatory ID effort from day one,” said Sam Hines, vice president of the Michigan Pork Producers Assoc. “I think it’s something that’s critically needed, especially given how much pork is being exported now. We were just disappointed that it took so long to put together.”
Hines said hogs will be identified as a group under the new rule, except breeding animals, which will have to be identified individually. “We are supportive of that,” he added. In fact, he said that his group was supportive of the NAIS program, but cattlemen didn’t like it.
Clifford noted the rule will be effective starting Feb. 26, but it won’t begin to be implemented for at least another six months.