USDA Secretary Mike Johanns yesterday announced his agency's livestock ID implementation plan, which outlined the timelines and benchmarks for the establishment of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

USDA also released the general technical standards for animal tracking databases that will "enable integration of private systems with the NAIS." Private database owners may submit applications for their system to be evaluated to USDA. In June, USDA plans to begin entering into cooperative agreements with private database owners that meet the standards.

Johanns says USDA plans -- by early 2007 -- to have the technology in place, called the Animal Trace Processing System, which will allow state and federal animal health officials to "query the NAIS and private databases during a disease investigation." Also, USDA will hold training sessions for the distributors (tag managers and resellers) of animal ID tags on April 13 and April 26. The implementation plan is available at -- P. Scott Shearer, Washington, D.C., correspondent