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 www.usda.gov/nais.

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.