WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2012—Three years after the initial framework, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced a final rule establishing regulations for animal disease traceability (ADT) of U.S. livestock moving interstate.  

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said USDA is prepared to publish the final rule on Dec. 28. He said it only applies to animals moving interstate and does not require any specific identification tag or “dictate a particular format for record keeping.”

Vilsack announced in 2010 that he would begin gathering input to devise a more flexible tracing system than the federally-administered National Animal Identification System (NAIS). USDA published an ADT rule proposal in August 2011. 

“The rule is obviously different than what we proposed because we listened to concerns from the countryside,” he said today. 

Under the final rule, unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate will have to be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates.

“It’s important that we create this system for our producers,” Vilsack said, adding it would be invaluable to investigators when a disease occurs and will help preserve integrity in the market.

“The goal here is to not create an additional burden for our states,” he said, noting the rule should help USDA contain disease more quickly and “reassure our trading partners more quickly.”

Regarding a final rule, the founder of Strategic Conservation Solutions, LLC, Bruce Knight, said USDA had to maintain a balance between the need to respond to disease rapidly and the need to ease the groundswell of negative public opinion that came back after the proposed rule. Knight, former Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at USDA from 2006-2009, said one aspect of concern about the final rule is a possible sacrifice of timeliness in order to gain acceptance throughout the countryside.

“A state-based traceability system obviously does work, but only on slow moving diseases,” he said. “If the same system will work on foot-and-mouth disease remains to be seen.” 

Industry representatives that offered input throughout the rule-making process expressed satisfaction with the announcement today. 

“Hats off to USDA and APHIS,” said U.S. Cattlemen’s Association’s Executive Vice President, Jess Peterson, who noted the administration “truly took that input” from stakeholders and industry on the rule proposed in August 2011. “Their three main points were the really big ones for us,” he said, regarding the acceptance of brands, backtags and alternative movement documentation. 

According to USDA, the differences from the proposed rule include:

-Accepting the use of brands, tattoos and brand registration as official identification when accepted by the shipping and receiving States or Tribes

-Permanently maintaining the use of backtags as an alternative to official eartags for cattle and bison moved directly to slaughter

-Accepting movement documentation other than an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI) for all ages and classes of cattle when accepted by the shipping and receiving States or Tribes

-Clarifying that all livestock moved interstate to a custom slaughter facility are exempt from the regulations

-Exempting chicks moved interstate from a hatchery from the official identification requirements

While the NAIS system suggested a 48-hour electronic trace-back, it was too costly and burdensome for cattle producers, Peterson explained. “In a perfect world, it’s a great concept,” he said, but the new, more flexible approach “provides us the ability to have a successful trace out system.” 

“The ability is the most important part,” he said, while also noting the federal allowance for states to accept already utilized metal tags will be less costly for producers than switching over to electronic tags.   

NCBA Chief Veterinarian Kathy Simmons also issued praise for today’s announcement. “From the Secretary’s comments, NCBA is encouraged that many of the priorities of cattlemen and women have been considered in this final rule,” she said. “Most important to cattle producers is the Secretary’s announcement of separate rulemaking for beef cattle under 18 months of age.”

During today’s announcement, Vilsack also explained that beef cattle under 18 months of age, unless they are moved interstate for shows, exhibitions, rodeos, or recreational events, are exempt from the official identification requirement in the rule. He added that a separate rulemaking will eventually address more specific requirements for this group. Peterson estimated a final rule on young cattle no sooner than two to three years from now. 

Vilsack said the president’s budget requested $14 million for implementation of the ADT rule, and Congress has so far approved about $8 million. 


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