USDA unveiled this week its guiding principles for the development of a public/private partnership that "enables the private sector to maintain animal movement data as part of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS)." The four guiding principles are:

  • The system must be able to track animals from point of origin to processing within 48 hours without unnecessary burden to producers and other stakeholders.

  • The system's architecture must be developed without unduly increasing the size and role of government.

  • The system must be flexible enough to utilize existing technologies and incorporate new ID technologies as they develop.

  • Animal movement data should be maintained in a private system that can be readily accessed when necessary by state and federal animal health authorities.
USDA plans a stakeholder meeting later this year to discuss expectations for the private tracking system, user requirements and system specifications. For more on NAIS, visit

USDA's intention that animal ID data collected under a national animal ID system will be held or maintained in a private system assures the confidentiality of producer information. This had been a major area of concern because records in a publicly held database theoretically would be open to access under the Freedom Of Information Act.

As a result, it appears the industry will have many private entities providing the databases and systems. This presumably will not only provide 48-traceback capability in the event of an animal health emergency, but provide the infrastructure for information flow between segments, as well as the capability to look at beef production from a total systems approach and create more value.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which had lobbied hard for a private database system, lauded the USDA announcement. Meanwhile, the National Farmers Union and R-CALF criticized the move, saying a government-held database was preferable.

There's been a tremendous amount of work done on this project, and it appears USDA has now embraced these efforts and industry concerns and desires. The announcement will add a great deal of momentum to the formation of the systems and initial protocols for implementing the program.