Vilsack hears arguments on animal ID system

Apr 17, 2009
by DTN
Vilsack hears arguments on animal ID system

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack sat down last Wednesday to listen to opinions from livestock and meat industry representatives on what direction they believe the government should take in improving its animal identification and tracking program.

USDA officials have publicly said they do not believe the program, designed to be able to track a livestock disease outbreak to its source, is effective the way it is currently implemented.

Bill Bullard, chief executive of the cattle group R- CALF United Stockgrowers of America, spoke to Dow Jones Newswires during a coffee break in the ongoing meeting with Vilsack.

Some are telling Vilsack they believe that participation in the program should remain voluntary, as it is now, but some are advocating it become mandatory for producers.

“The comments are across the board,” Bullard said. One group advocating mandatory participation is the American Meat Institute (AMI), a group representing meat packers. AMI President J. Patrick Boyle told Dow Jones he believes there is no way the program can be effective if it’s not mandatory. Furthermore, a mandatory system would help boost U.S. meat exports to foreign countries worried about the safety of U.S. meat. R-CALF, on the other hand, is strongly opposed to any form of mandatory program.

Bullard said, “I think the secretary is definitely open to ideas .... We’re very pleased that the secretary had decided to go back to the stakeholders and determine what their concerns are.” However, he also said Vilsack told the gathered livestock representatives that lawmakers are pushing for a mandatory program.

“The secretary indicated that members of Congress have expressed that [US- DA] ought to be looking at a mandatory system,” Bullard said.