The U.S. government has moved a step closer toward realization -- near the end of this decade -- of a state-federal-industry program to allow 48-hour traceback of all U.S. livestock. Yesterday, Secretary Mike Johanns unveiled USDA's 22-page "Draft Strategic Plan for the National Animal Identification System" (NAIS), and its "Draft Program Standards" (36 pages). See both documents at: www.usda.gov/nais.

Basically, the program proposes mandatory premises ID and individual animal ID by Jan. 1, 2008, and mandatory reporting of cattle movement in commerce by Jan. 1, 2009. The USDA is seeking public comment on the proposal for 30 days.

There is, however, as Wes Ishmael points out in the upcoming BEEF Stocker Trends newlsetter, no proposed solution for program funding or confidentiality of data is included in the just-release document.

"While the USDA document hints at the need to make NAIS data available for other purposes than disease surveillance directly, it never addresses, for example, whether birth dates collected for NAIS will be made available to the marketplace for verifying age, or if producers will be expected to pay for NAIS compliance, plus market compliance, thus duplicating cost," Ishmael writes.

Johanns says the documents were created with guidance from the NAIS advisory committee and input from producers.

"We're proposing answers to some of the key questions about how we envision this system moving forward. Now, I'm eager to hear from farmers and ranchers so we can develop a final plan," Johanns said.

Submit comments by June 6 by sending an original and three copies of postal or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. 050-15-1, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3C71, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD; 20737-1238. Electronic comment forms will be available at www.usda.gov/nais.

Once the comment period is ended, USDA will follow the normal rulemaking process before any aspects of NAIS become mandatory. The public will have the opportunity to submit additional comments on any proposed regulations.