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September 13, 2005   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
September 13, 2005

An announcement by USDA that it plans to allow private industry to maintain animal movement data as part of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) has drawn opposition from the Alabama Farmers Federation Beef Committee.

"This will be a mandatory program and a private entity would have no regulatory jurisdiction," said Perry Mobley, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation's Beef, Dairy and Hay and Forage Divisions. "There is no way that a single private entity can successfully accommodate such a huge project, and this will surely be a profit-driven program for that entity. Therefore, producer confidentiality will not be nearly as important as it should be."

Mobley said USDA's proposal is a sure way to limit the amount of funds the government would have to appropriate for the system. The strategic plan for the NAIS is a good one, he said, adding that the Federation fully supports NAIS.

"But if the government is going to mandate such a system, then it must take full responsibility for it, including offsetting as much of the cost to producers as possible," he said.

NAIS is designed to enhance the surveillance and trace-back of individual animals in the event of an animal disease outbreak. Handing over this responsibility to a private entity defeats the purpose of the system and is a conflict of interest, Mobley said.

"NAIS should be in the hands of state and federal animal health officials with cooperation from the private sector because this is a matter of food safety and consumer confidence," he said. "The Federation will be asking Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns to reconsider USDA's decision to use a public/private partnership for the NAIS. Our organization along with other agricultural organizations and consumer groups plan to continue to solicit support for our position in Congress."

USDA officials will be scheduling a stakeholder meeting this fall to clarify expectations for the private tracking system and discuss user requirements and system specifications.

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