The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today issued a proposed rule to establish general regulations for improving the traceability of U.S. livestock moving interstate that entails asking Congress for a $14 million annual stipend to fund the new program.
Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary, and John Clifford, DVM, chief veterinary officer for the United States, says using a flexible method of traceability that is low cost and is federally implemented will decrease time and finances needed by reducing the number of animals involved in investigations when animal disease events or intentional food-animal tampering occurs.
“I have listened carefully to stakeholders throughout the country about how to reach effective animal disease traceability in a transparent manner without additional burden,” Vilsack said. “We are proposing a flexible approach in which states and tribes can develop systems for tracing animals that work best for them and for producers in their jurisdiction. This approach offers great flexibility at the state and local level and addresses gaps in our disease response efforts.”
Vilsack said past “one size fits all” approaches to tracing agriculture animals resulted in only 30 percent producer compliance.
Under the proposed rule, unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate would have to be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates. Recognizing the importance and prevalence of other identifications in certain regions, shipping and receiving states or tribes are permitted to agree upon alternative forms of identification such as brands or tattoos.
“Our proposal strives to meet the diverse needs of the animal agriculture industry and our state and tribal partners, while helping us all reach our goal of increased animal disease traceability,” Dr. Clifford said. “We believe reaching our goals on traceability will help save the industry and American taxpayer's money in the long term. Additionally, this is a very important opportunity to protect animals and the markets they’re sold in.”
In addition to saving money, the new traceability program may attract over-seas trade of U.S. cattle, according to Vilsack.