A Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) rep told USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack last week that America’s livestock markets are skeptical the current National Animal Identification System (NAIS) plan will maintain the “speed of commerce” in livestock marketing. That’s an “an absolute necessity in maintaining a viable marketing system that serves tens of thousands of producers every day,” said Nancy Robinson, LMA vice president for government and industry affairs.

LMA, which represents about two-thirds of all registered markets in the U.S., believes NAIS should remain a voluntary program.

Among LMA’s concerns are:

  • Low-frequency radio-frequency ID tag and tag reader technology is inadequate in preserving the speed of commerce in most market settings.
  • USDA must identify a standardized ID technology compatible between livestock operations, before making NAIS mandatory.
  • A mandatory program will likely require many markets to establish tagging services for consignors unable to tag their animals on farm. This will add costs and affect worker safety, liability and animal welfare.
  • The current NAIS plan doesn’t indicate how USDA will pay for implementation.
  • Cattle ID systems in Australia and Canada shouldn’t be used to justify a U.S. program. Robinson said it’s time to quit “muddying the NAIS waters with talk of value-added, trade, food safety and (country of origin labeling) benefits, and hone in on what this effort is really about…animal disease control and eradication.”
  • An ID program too expensive or cumbersome will force small producers out of business.
  • If USDA is committed to a mandatory program, starting with a “bookend” ID and tracking system would give the industry time to adapt, and ID technologies time to “catch up with the realities of the U.S. livestock industry.” A bookend system would simply require all livestock to be identified to their premises of origin, with sales and other commercial records providing the traceback capability.