The New York Times reported Friday morning that the U.S. Department of Agriculture would drop its program to trace all livestock. In fact, the USDA announced Friday morning that it was announcing a “new framework for animal disease traceability.” Clearly, the USDA has not dropped its plans to trace animals, but has shifted its focus.
The old policy would have every farm animal tracked through implanted devices. (Every animal would have its own electronic bar code.) This complicated system drove small operators crazy and the National Animal Identification System nearly set off a revolt in farm country from Maine to California. The USDA held “listening sessions” across the country and heard uniform opposition from animal owners. So, the headline in the Times was welcome.
Yes, but. In the USDA’s news release, it’s clear the NAIS scheme has not gone away. The agency announced that it wanted a national animal tracing system that would only apply to animals moved in interstate commerce and that the news system would be administered by the states under federal regulations. The USDA plans to “convene a forum with animal health leaders” from the states and the Tribes to “initiate a dialogue” about ways to build a new NAIS. What does all this mean? Stay tuned.