This week, USDA posted a news release titled “USDA seeks comments on the Proposed Rule for Animal Disease Traceability” on the agency’s website. The release appears to have been posted accidentally, as it dates back to Aug. 9, 2011 – the date the USDA published the proposed traceability rule. It serves as a timely reminder though, as stakeholders now have one month left to comment.

The release refers to the original deadline for the public-comment period, November 9, 2011 – yesterday. However, back in October, USDA extended the date following requests from a number of ag organizations citing a need for more time to study the proposal and prepare comments. The new deadline is December 9, 2011.

Livestock organizations are split on the issue, with some adamantly opposed and others in favor or willing to withhold judgment until USDA issues its final rule.

NCBA favors a traceability program, and the organization’s Chief Veterinarian Elizabeth Parker made this statement back in August when USDA published the proposal: “Cattlemen’s top priority is raising healthy cattle. As such, NCBA is supportive of an animal disease traceability program for cattle health purposes. That is why NCBA has been an industry leader working diligently with other cattle groups and USDA’s APHIS to ensure cattlemen’s concerns are addressed in a new animal disease traceability program.

R-CALF USA opposes the rule, and sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack outlining what they see as deal breakers in the proposal. R-CALF specifically opposes the plan’s exclusion of brands as an official identification method for cattle moving through interstate commerce, and USDA’s intent to eventually require traceability for feeder cattle as well as breeding cattle.

The National Farmers Union responded more favorably to the proposed rule. NFU President Roger Johnson says “The ability to trace, track and quarantine livestock during a disease outbreak will help minimize the economic impact it will have on the agriculture industry and rural America. NFU policy supports USDA’s action to leave animal identification for disease management to the states. We encourage USDA to move this rule through the full rulemaking and implementation process quickly.”

The Livestock Marketing Association seems open to the plan, pending further review and industry input into the final rule. Livestock markets, naturally, worry about requirements that could add time, labor and expense to the marketing system. LMA plans to review the proposed rule “to determine if it meets the markets’ expectations: that it is practical, workable and the most cost-effective ID/traceability plan possible for their businesses, their customers, and all segments of the U.S. cattle industry.”

 The American Veterinary Medical Association meanwhile, applauds the proposed rule. "We commend the collaborative approach taken by USDA-APHIS to develop this proposed rule and look forward to providing our comments," says Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the AVMA. "From a veterinary perspective, preventing and controlling the spread of infectious disease is paramount to protecting our nation's herds and flocks and maintaining a safe food supply. While the rule has yet to be finalized, the AVMA will continue to be an active voice for veterinarians and will work with the USDA to ensure that the final rule provides for an effective animal disease traceability system while minimizing the burden on those responsible for its implementation.”

To read the proposed rule and for additional information specific to livestock species, visit the USDA/APHIS Traceability website.

To submit comments electronically, go the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Or send your comments to:

Docket No. APHIS-2009-0091, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.