The House Appropriations Subcommittee has completed its fiscal 2011 budget and has cut all funding for the voluntary National Animal Identification System. The subcommittee is charged with budgeting for USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration programs.

"We have spent over $147 million on this program since 2004; and six years later, we still have not seen a clear plan from USDA on successful implementation, even after they shifted to a more fragmented system in 2010," says Subcommittee Chairman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

“I don’t read in this announcement that there will never be funding for a functional program, instead the message is ‘We want to see a long-term plan that includes a budget and an outcome that meets expectations of a functional disease traceability program,’” says Robert Fourdraine, chief operating officer of the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium.
 
Wisconsin has a state-mandated premises registration program and a voluntary animal ID program that primarily focuses on the on-farm benefits and secondarily, works for animal health and disease traceability programs. “Nothing has been said or done by USDA that indicates we need to change this program,” says Fourdraine. “In fact, the new USDA direction supports the fact that states develop their own state-based solution to disease traceability.

“We know our strategy is working because we have increased the use of the 840 radio-frequency identification tags in the Wisconsin dairy industry year after year,” he adds. “I think we are waiting to see where the national program is going and hopefully we’ll continue to have industry support to have a program that puts Wisconsin at the top of the scale in terms of having a functional and robust system that will work for both the producers and the state veterinarian in the case of a disease outbreak, just like Michigan has been able to do with its animal ID program.”

NAIS has faced tremendous obstacles lately as USDA abruptly changed course earlier this year by handing NAIS responsibilities to individual states and tribal nations, who are already overly strapped for money. In some circles this step was the first sign that the program ultimately would fail. An organized and vocal opposition has worked hard to see that NAIS would not come to fruition.

For the fiscal 2011 budget, USDA had asked for $14.2 million for NAIS to assist with transitioning the program to the states and tribal nations. 

"We do not feel it is a good use of resources to fund NAIS until the agency develops a clear plan for a mandatory system with measurable goals, long-term funding levels, and a plan for successful implementation," DeLauro adds. Of course, given previous attempts to move toward a mandatory system, such implementation is a long way off, if ever. 

Specific to USDA, the subcommittee funded it at $20.26 billion, just $18.7 million less than the Obama administration had requested. FDA was allocated $2.57 billion, which was $55 million above the budget request.

The subcommittee cut $13 million from USDA's APHIS Avian Influenza Program compared to fiscal 2010.

The House bill would fund the president's $1 billion request for the Food Safety Inspection Service. Among the funding provisions in the bill, it would establish a science-based panel to analyze FSIS’ food safety system and recommendation steps for modernization. 

Child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program, were allotted $19 billion—equal to the administration's request. That includes a $95 million increase over fiscal 2010 specifically for nutrition research, outreach and education to combat both hunger and obesity.

First lady Michelle Obama's Healthy Food Financing Initiative to supply more healthy food to underserved urban and rural communities received $40 million.

Funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative was increased by 19 percent from last year to $312 million.

Source: Porkmag.com, Meatingplace.com, U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee