USDA proposes updates to animal disease traceability, seeks public comment

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is proposing updates to its animal disease traceability regulations.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president-elect Todd Wilkinson, a South Dakota cattle producer, says animal disease traceability needs to take place at the speed of commerce and is critical to the future of the industry.  “Part of that is going to mean electronic identification,” he says. “Now they are dealing with a mandatory rule and we would prefer to deal with a voluntary basis but we’ve got we got to get this process started.” Wilkinson says any program that USDA adopts must allow for maximum flexibility and privacy and come at a minimal cost for producers.

AUDIO: Todd Wilkinson, NCBA

Dwight Keller chairs the Animal Health & Identification Committee for the US Cattlemen’s Association.  He tells Brownfield the USDA must protect producer privacy.  “All data will be held in state animal health officials,” he says.  “So a producer’s name will all be kept confidential and it will just be a numerical code.”

AUDIO: Dwight Keller, US Cattlemen’s Association

Wilkinson says NCBA and its members agree that privacy is paramount and whatever system is implemented must be universal, and able to be used between states.  “Sometimes that’s going to require a hub,” he says.  “And the identification of that hub and where that information is stored and how it’s accessed are the details that the producers are very concerned about.”

However, not all cattle groups are in favor of the proposed animal disease traceability rule.  R-CALF USA president Bill Bullard says the proposal benefits multinational beef packers by protecting them from having to pay higher prices for cattle. 

The US Cattlemen’s Association says the updated changes will only impact about 10 percent of the US herd and the proposal would only apply to specific classes of cattle that are crossing state lines and meet certain criteria.  That includes cattle that are sexually intact and over 18 months of age; all female dairy cattle of any age and male dairy animals born after March 11, 2013; cattle and bis of any age used for rodeo or recreational events; cattle or bison of any age used for shows or exhibitions.

NCBA president-elect Todd Wilkinson says the release of the proposal ahead of NCBA’s annual meeting next month gives members time to fully review the rule in its entirety to determine whether it meets NCBA’s policy. 

APHIS is accepting comments until March 22, 2023.

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