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USDA Undersecretary Speaks on Livestock Identification

Bruce Knight, undersecretary for the United States Department of Agriculture's, marketing and regulatory programs, said that livestock producers are voluntarily registering their operations with the USDA.

On June 8th, at the World Pork Expo at the State Fair Grounds in Des Moines, Knight spoke to producers about the National Animal Identification System.

Knight said that 400,000 farms, or a little more than one-fourth of all of the farms in the U.S. have signed up so far.

Knight said that the voluntary system we have has more participants than the mandatory systems in Canada and Australia have.

The National Pork Board has signed an agreement with the USDA to promote registration of hog operations, which has helped aid the effort.

Because of the pork producers efforts, more than two-thirds of hog producers have registered with the USDA Knight said.

Knight said registering livestock operations with the USDA will help create an information system that will help producers and animal health officials respond to an outbreak of animal disease or to agri-terrorism.

"It doesn't cost anything, it's confidential, it's simple to do and, most importantly, it's the right thing to do," said Knight.

"The information we ask for is the farmer's name, address, type of animals raised, and geographical location," Knight continued. "We don't ask for the size of the operation to protect confidentiality."

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship also has been promoting registration of Iowa farms, Knight said. More than 10,000 Iowa farmers have registered with the USDA.

"Iowa is the leader in the nation, with North Carolina and Texas," said Knight.
The USDA also signed an agreement with the National FFA Organization to encourage registration.

The controversial program was stymied because of the opposition of some livestock producers to registering with the government.

A rapid disease response will limit the impact of an outbreak on a producer's operation, stop the spread of disease, and soften the potential market impact for the livestock industry said Knight

If the voluntary program is a success, the system will not have to be made mandatory. "I am optimistic enough the voluntary system will work well enough that we will not have to go to a mandatory system," said Knight.

Knight also announced that a new USDA plan on the national animal ID system will be out within the next couple of months. This new plan will put a vast majority of the goals from the old plan "off to the side." Knight said that the new goals will focus on individual species.

Brian Sexton is the 2007 Wallaces Farmer intern and a student at Iowa State University.

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