NAIS is Out, Animal Disease Traceability is in – Translate, Please!

Animal ID, What Next? It’s no secret that the USDA’s National Animal ID System (NAIS) has encountered its fair share of critisism during its first six years on the drawing board. In fact, following hearing sessions hosted by the USDA last year, industry buffs called the program unworkable and unnecessary. Hence, in its current form, NAIS has been called off and USDA officials have rallied to create a new, more flexible framework for Animal Disease Traceability in the United States.

Under the new Animal Disease Traceability program (announced on Feb. 5), the framework will provide the basic tenets of an improved animal disease traceability capability in the United States. Specific USDA efforts will only apply to animals moved in interstate commerce; be administered by the states and Tribal Nations to provide more flexibility; encourage the use of lower-cost technology; and be implemented transparently through federal regulations. Specific details of the framework will be ironed in coming months.

So what is the point of this program and will it hinder or help farm operators?

According to the USDA, “Animal disease traceability, or knowing where diseased and at-risk animals are, where they’ve been, and when, is very important to make sure that there can be a rapid response when animal disease events take place.”

While this program will not prevent disease, the USDA believes with this type of framework, it will be indispensable to know where diseased and at-risk animals are during the event of an emergency response. The framework would also help limit the number of animals impacted by an outbreak and reduce economic strain on owners.

While the NAIS was criticized as being too costly and only benefiting large-scale producers, this new framework is actually designed to allow producers maximum flexibility, and therefore should in turn reduce the economic burden. Operators can work together with state agencies to determine what identification methods best meet their needs, while continuing to adhere to national standards and performance measures.

It should also be noted, that again, this framework will not be mandatory for all producers/animals. The USDA stated that they will not mandate a one-size fits-all approach to animal disease traceability. However, the program will require animal disease traceability for animals moving in interstate commerce.

Groups such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assoc. believe this framework holds merit for its flexible approach to animal disease traceability, including greater state-involvement and choices in the use of technology, while the National Pork Board (NPB) contends support amongst its industry members for NAIS.

Previously, the Pork Checkoff's swine health committee, and the Committee's Animal ID Working Group, had supported the NAIS and incorporated elements of the program as a requirement in the industry's Pork Quality Assurance Plus® program. According to NPB, the recent announcement by USDA will “not change the Checkoff's reliance on a voluntary premises identification program as an integral part of swine health initiatives.”

Read more about the USDA Q&A on NAIS and the new animal disease traceability framework.