Believing that the discussion of a national animal identification plan had moved away from those most affected by it – cattle producers and marketers – eight cattle industry organizations have agreed on a statement of 12 principles, in the development of a cattle disease traceability identification system.

The organizations, representing the beef, dairy and marketing sectors, developed the statement of principles during a meeting in Kansas City, Mo., last November.

The meeting was organized by Livestock Marketing Association, in cooperation with its cattle industry partners, to work toward a common understanding and approach to enhancing current cattle identification (ID) and traceability systems for animal disease surveillance and control in the United States.

The organizations agreed that an ID plan for the cattle industry should be specie-specific because of the diverse way cattle are raised, marketed and processed. The plan was presented Dec. 18 to U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Edward Avalos, and other agency officials and transmitted to members of Congress recently.

Nancy Robinson, LMA vice president for government and industry affairs, said the discussion of what is “a practical, workable, cost-effective plan for cattle disease ID traceability has largely moved from the cattle production and marketing sectors.

“Those responsible for the production and marketing of cattle have long understood the importance and value of ID for cattle disease surveillance, control and eradication purposes,” she said. “Building upon that, we agreed upon principles that should form the basis of a workable, national cattle disease ID plan.”

            Highlights of the 12 principles:

·        Additional costs to the beef and dairy industry must be minimized.

·        Cattle ID information must be kept confidential and should be kept under the control of state animal health officials. The only data required to be collected should be that necessary only for cattle disease surveillance, control and eradication.

·        There should be renewed emphasis on preventing the introduction of foreign animal diseases.

·        The 48-hour foot and mouth disease traceback model is currently unachievable.

·        The ID system should operate at the speed of commerce.

·        An interstate movement ID program should use as a model the brucellosis/tuberculosis (TB) surveillance and control programs.

·        Any ID enhancements of historically established federal and state cattle disease ID programs – beginning with the individual identification of adult breeding cattle – should be modeled after the TB and brucellosis programs, as they existed prior to USDA’s National Animal ID System modifications, and voluntarily phased-in over a proper time frame.

·        Producers should be protected from liability for the acts of others after the cattle have left the producer’s control.

·        State animal health officials should continue to have their historical flexibility and discretion in assigning an identifier for the person responsible for the livestock, such as in an epidemiological investigation or mitigation of a disease outbreak.

·        Producers should have the flexibility to use currently established and/or evolving methods of official identification.

In transmitting the statement of principles to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and members of Congress, the organizations said while they “realized much work remains to be done within our individual organizations, as well as the wider cattle industry, we believe the attached statement of general principles…represents a significant step forward on a challenging issue for all of us.”

Signing the statement of the 12 principles were, in addition to LMA, the American Angus Association, American Farm Bureau Federation,  Dairy Farmers of America, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, R-CALF USA, Texas Cattle Feeders Association and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association.

The complete 12 principles can be found on the home page of LMA’s website, www.lmaweb.com.