April 14, 2005 More than 400 animal agriculture professionals and officials worldwide attended the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) annual meeting last week in Saint Paul, Minn., to discuss issues and advancements in animal agriculture. Of particular interest were updates regarding the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) as well as industry progress since the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States.
Animal ID update
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Undersecretary Bill Hawks reassured the members of the NIAA Animal Identification and Information Systems Committee that mandatory participation in the NAIS would not be put in place until all confidentiality issues had been resolved. According to an NIAA release, the administration hopes to make that a reality by 2009.
Hawks urged industry members to actively support a bill sent to Congress by the Bush Administration that would exempt the data collected for NAIS from the Freedom of Information Act.
Neil Hammerschmidt, NAIS coordinator for the USDA, reported on various field trials and the voluntary premises identification programs in place in 45 states. More than 50,000 premises have been registered across the country. In addition, he reported that the USDA plans to publish the NAIS Strategic Plan in the Federal Register in the near future. He urged industry members to review the plan carefully and make appropriate comments and recommendations.
BSE, industry update
Ron DeHaven, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) administrator, told participants that the American public has taken the discovery of BSE in the United States calmly, as indicated by both public opinion polls and the marketplace.
DeHaven noted that surveillance sampling of more than 300,000 animals considered to be in a high-risk category has yet to find another incidence of the disease. We have had three samples that were inconclusive and required further testing, which in the end were negative, he stated. While we would rather not have announced an inconclusive finding, we felt that it was necessary to bring [the facts] to light rather than to have rumors circulate and find their way to the public attention.
The surveillance program has assured the public that there is a very low risk of exposure to the disease, DeHaven said.
For more information regarding the meeting, visit www.animalagriculture.org.
adapted from NIAA releases