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Government Hands

The USDA launched the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) in 2004 to devise a means for tracing farm animals in the United States and to monitor diseases in animal populations. The initiative is supposed to provide damage control with an eye to alerting producers, distributors, and retailers before animal carriers can spread disease. The goal is to have 48-hour trace-back ability by 2009, with a system that notifies owners when their animals have been in contact with suspected infections.

The NAIS plan involves three parts:

  • Registering the premises (farm, ranch, household, wholesale lot, etc.)
  • Registering the animal
  • Registering each event (animal transported to the county fair, animal sold, animal dead, etc.)

Obviously, this is an expensive operation. According to Dr. John Wiemers, APHIS Senior Staff Veterinarian at USDA, premises registration is currently ongoing in all fifty states, paid for by USDA. But for the other two pieces of the project—registering the animal and registering each event—there still seems to be some confusion. While the NAIS Q&A site says that costs will be shared (presumably by consumers, government, and industry), the site is vague about who will pay for how much of which activities.

Until 2009, all registration is voluntary, with individual animal ID being implemented currently through pilot projects. Meanwhile, small holders worry about how much equipment will be required and how much it will cost.

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