For most of the past decade, the U.S. Department of Agriculture

tried to get farmers and ranchers to accept the National Animal

Identification System (NAIS) without success.


was to be a high tech solution, with top down coverage of nearly every

critter on the land. But, as everybody in rural America knows, NAIS is


Still U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom

Vilsack has every reason to worry about tuberculosis, brucellosis,

scabies, pseudorabies, hog cholera and like animal diseases.  So to

improve the traceability of U.S. livestock moving through interstate

commerce when animal diseases do strike, Vilsack Tuesday rolled out a

new, decidedly low tech tracking system.


an annual cost estimated at $14.5 million, the new animal disease

traceability scheme  will rely on state and tribal governments, apply

only to animals sold across state lines, and will be flexible about

whatever the parties work out for identification–tags, tattoos, brands

or pretty much, whatever works.

No radio

frequency or bar code ID will be required and Elsie the goat who lives

her entire life on the farm will never have to be involved.

The new regulations will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday and public comments will be accepted until Nov. 9.


a media conference call, Vilsack outlined a traceability program that

appears to rest upon two states or a state and tribal government having

agreement on how animals in interstate commerce can be monitored.


said USDA’s approach this time is based on only worrying about

interstate commerce, being flexible, low-tech, and having arapid

response.  He said the focus may end up being on cattle because the

sheep industry has an effective tracking system in place.

USDA’s new proposal was developed after holding eight public meetings and gaining insight from a working group.


traceability, Vilsack said animal disease investigations taking 150

days or longer are unacceptable from the public health viewpoint and

impose greater economic costs on producers than need be.


said the traceability system will not prevent disease but it will

reduce the time and number of animals caught up in an investigation.


lack to an ID system that can trace an animal to a specific farm is one

of the reasons China gives for blocking its market to U.S. beef.  In an

acknowledgement that the new regulations alone would probably not open

China to U.S. beef, Vilsack said:  “We have significant issues with them

(the Chinese).”

Congress, which shutoff

funding for the NAIS, must financially support the new regulations if

they are to be successful.  “I think there is a good case to be made

that they will have a good return on investment,” Vilsack said.

Dr. John Clifford, chief veterinary officer of the U.S., responded to controversy that has already come up over brands.


Billings, MT-based cattleman’s groups known at R-CALF USA is concerned

that “hot-iron” brands won’t be recognized border-to-border.  Clifford

points out that only 14 states still use brands.

“This is a bad deal for independent U.S. cattle producers,” opined R-CALF’s Kenny Fox.

The Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to


Mail/Commercial Delivery: Send to Docket No. APHIS-2009-0091,

Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700

River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.


documents and any comments we receive on this docket may be viewed at!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2009-0091 or in the reading

room, which is located in room 1141 of the USDA South Building, 14th

Street and Independence Ave., SW., Washington, DC, between 8 a.m. and

4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. 

To facilitate entry into the comment reading room, call 202-690-2817.