Last week, Bruce Knight, USDA Undersecretary of Marketing and Regulatory Programs, addressed the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Cattle Health & Well Being Committee. During his presentation, Knight outlined what's on his radar for 2008.

  • Animal ID. "I need your help in moving this program forward, and moving it forward aggressively," Knight says. Currently species are being prioritized with the objective for 48-hr. traceability. The poultry industry has achieved 48-hr. traceability, and the pork industry will be within a year. Sheep, through the existing scrapie eradication program, is about 80% traceable, and should reach 100% by 2009. Knight is now primarily focused on cattle, stating dairy and beef have a long ways to go to reach traceability.

    To that end, Knight stated that for the last four bovine tuberculosis (TB) outbreaks, it took 199 days to complete tracebacks.

  • Electronic health certificates. Moving beyond paper based to electronic files that are searchable.

  • Improved screening for TB. Currently five states are dealing with outbreaks: California, Minnesota, Michigan, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

  • BSE. In May 2007 the U.S. received OIE controlled-risk status. In 2008, Mexico will be up for review for controlled-risk status.

  • Canadian trade. Knight is under pressured by U.S. trading partners to remove artificial trade barriers with Canada. The Food & Drug Administration is likely to enhance the U.S. feed ban of BSE-risk materials, following Canada's lead.

  • Knight also recognized the fever-tick situation in South Texas, stating, "this is one of the most important programs we've had historically." At this point Knight said the fever-tick eradication program is a line item in the President Bush's FY 2009 budget, in the meantime he's seeking short-term funding from the Office of Management and Budget.
Committee members also brought forth concerns about the brucellosis status of wildlife reserves in the Yellowstone National Park and country-of-origin labeling.