Last week, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns released an updated implementation plan that outlines timelines and benchmarks for the establishment of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The agency also revealed its plan for the initial integration of private and state animal tracking databases with NAIS.

"Developing an effective animal identification system has been a high priority for USDA and we've made significant strides toward achieving a comprehensive U.S. system," said Johanns. "We recognize that this represents one of the largest systematic changes ever faced by the livestock industry and we have welcomed suggestions from stakeholders to ensure that we continue to gain momentum."

The implementation plan still calls for full implementation of NAIS by 2009. It also establishes the benchmarks that must be met in order for NAIS to be operational by 2007, and to achieve full producer participation by 2009.

In addition, USDA expects to have the Animal Trace Processing System, commonly known as the metadata system, in place by early 2007.  This system will allow state and federal animal health officials to query NAIS and private databases during a disease investigation. The animal tracking databases will record and store animal movement tracking information for livestock that state and federal animal health officials will query for animals of interest in a disease investigation.

USDA also released the general technical standards for animal tracking databases that will enable integration of private systems with the NAIS. Private database owners are invited to submit applications for system evaluation to USDA and offer feedback as the final technical requirements are established. USDA will then enter into cooperative agreements with owners of databases that meet the standards. The application for system evaluation and a draft cooperative agreement are available on the NAIS web site at www.usda.gov/nais.

Training sessions will be offered to organizations interested in distributing animal identification number (AIN) tags as either a tag manager or tag reseller. Two USDA-sponsored web conferences about the administration of AIN tags and a demonstration of the AIN Management System are scheduled for Thursday, April 13 at 1 p.m., and Wednesday, April 26 at 1 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is also finalizing $3 million in funds that will be awarded to a number of States and Tribes to conduct field trials to analyze information pertaining to animal identification.

For more information, as well as the updated timetable and benchmarks, go to: www.usda.gov/nais.

USDA