Wednesday, August 10, 2011

USDA proposes new interstate livestock tracking system to deal with disease outbreaks

Taking another crack at a tough issue, the U. S. Department of Agriculture proposed a new, mandatory livestock tracking system yesterday, in an effort to more quickly locate the origin of animal-borne diseases. The system would require farmers and ranchers to obtain interstate certificates of veterinary inspection or other approved documentation and use an approved livestock identification, such as cattle eartags, for animals being moved across state lines, The Associated Press reports.

"We would not propose this if we weren't confident it would do a better job than we've done in the past," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters in a conference call. The new system would cut animal tracking time down to as little as a few days and would be a "significant improvement" compared to the 150-day investigation of an earlier bovine tuberculosis outbreak, Vilsack said.

"The announcement came 18 months after [USDA] abandoned a program intended to trace the movement of farm animals across the country and said it would begin work on plans for a more flexible program to be administered by the states and tribal nations," AP notes. "A voluntary program implemented in 2004 to pinpoint an animal's location within 48 hours after a disease outbreak was poorly received with just 36 percent of farmers and ranchers participating in 2009."

The proposal, which would cost about $14.5 million annually and require congressional support, will not interfere with existing state regulations or prevent states from developing their own tracking systems, AP reports. For USDA's news release, click here. The proposal will be open for public comment for 90 days before starting Aug. 11. Click here to submit comments electronically.

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