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USDA Issues Implementation Plan for Animal Disease Outbreak Response

New York, Apr 27, 2006

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released this month an implementation plan for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS)—a disease surveillance and monitoring system that would enable state and federal animal health officials to respond quickly and effectively to outbreaks such as foot-and-mouth disease and the avian flu. The NAIS establishes standards for livestock producers to identify their animals, and to report their movements. Launched in 2004, the NAIS is a cooperative state-federal-industry program administered by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

The goal of the NAIS is to provide health officials with a means of identifying livestock and premises that have had contact with a disease within 48 hours of discovery, helping to limit the scope of a disease outbreak and to minimize its impact on domestic and foreign markets. The NAIS will apply to all livestock, including cows, pigs, horses, goats, and even farm-raised fish and seafood. The program requests livestock producers to register their premises with a database and to obtain a unique 15-digit animal identification number (AIN) for individual animals or for groups of animals, such as chickens, that move through the production chain as a unit.

Under NAIS, producers may choose to use supplemental identification methods such as RFID (radio frequency identification) tags in addition to the AIN tags. To ensure compatibility and uniformity of technology, APHIS is in the process of identifying “open” technology standards and minimum performance requirements for AIN and RFID-AIN tags. Such standards are recommended by the Species Working Groups to the NAIS Subcommittee of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Foreign Animal and Poultry Diseases.

Currently, AIN tags must meet the Code of Federal Regulations requirements for readability, durability, and printing characteristics. To support the interoperability of RFID technology, USDA requires conformance to two standards from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Developed by ISO Technical Committee 23/ Subcommittee 19 on agricultural electronics, ISO 11784:1996 Radio Frequency Identification of Animals – Code Structure and ISO 11785:1996 Radio Frequency Identification of Animals– Technical Concept, support an “open” technology in which any RFID scanner can read any RFID tag, regardless of frequency. The USDA’s existing requirements are detailed in the document Administration of Official Identification Devices with the Animal Identification Number.

"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 Mike Johanns, USDA agriculture secretary. "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 plan . . . will guide our efforts as we continue to work with our state and industry partners to implement a nationwide system."

USDA has set benchmarks to complete implementation of the program by 2009, at which time the agency expects to have registered all 2 million livestock premises in the U.S. and to have identified 100% of animals born that year and 60% of animals less than one year of age. While the NAIS is being developed and refined, participation in the program is voluntary. Producers are encouraged to test the existing system and to offer feedback to improve the program.

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