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USDA Proposes New Animal Disease Traceability Rule
In February 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) replaced its proposed National Animal Identification System (NAIS) with the Animal Disease Traceability Program (ADTP).
The former NAIS program was not fully embraced by the livestock community (the USDA spent $120 million on NAIS with only 36% of producer participation) and generated numerous concerns surrounding confidentiality, liability, cost, privacy, and religion. In response to these concerns, USDA will narrow the new ADTP approach by modifying the prior animal identification program to achieve animal disease traceback.
Rather than attempting to identify every animal, every premise and every animal movement to achieve traceback within 48 hours of a disease outbreak, the new USDA approach is aimed at designing a simplified program to achieve basic traceability with simplified identification means, including branding, to respond to a disease outbreak.
The ADTP will be administered by the states with federal support and will only apply to animals, including horses, moving interstate. The new program will encourage the use of lower-cost technology and ensure the traceability data is owned and maintained by the states and tribal nations. USDA indicated it will share the costs of the new program with the states.
After USDA announced the new ADTP, the Agency convened several stakeholder sessions with animal health leaders from states, tribal nations, and producer groups to discuss how best to achieve a coordinated approach to animal disease traceability. Also, USDA directed the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health to concentrate on specific issues, such as confidentiality and liability.
USDA stated the ADTP will be fully implemented over a period of years, and the Agency’s initial priority will be phasing-in cattle. However, the ADTP does include a specific provision relating to official identification for horses moving interstate.
In fall 2003, the AHC organized a task force that included nearly thirty national equine organizations. Its purpose was to evaluate the concept of a national ID system and to determine if the horse industry could develop standards for equine identification that would benefit the industry and be compatible with the plans being considered.
This task force was recognized as the Equine Species Working Group (ESWG) by the USDA. It is currently chaired by Dr. Jim Morehead (American Association of Equine Practitioners) and Dr. Billy Smith (American Quarter Horse Association). The ESWG remains in effect and will continue review the new ADTP and its potential costs and benefits to the horse industry. The ESWG wants to be sure that any system put in place protects the health and welfare of the entire U.S. horse population while not adversely affecting the business continuity in the horse industry.
USDA published the proposed Animal Disease Traceability rule on August 9, 2011 with a 90 day comment period. USDA subsequently extended the comment period to December 9, 2011.
Under the proposed rule, horses and other equine moved interstate would be required to be officially identified in the new traceability regulation with one of the choices specified below:
- A description sufficient to identify the individual equine, including, name, age, breed, color, gender, distinctive markings, or unique and permanent forms of identification when present (e.g., brands, tattoos, scars, cowlicks, or blemishes);
- Electronic identification that complies with ISO 11784/11785;
- Digital photographs of the equine; or
- A USDA backtag for horses being commercially transported for slaughter.
The ESWG submitted comments on the proposed rule to USDA for official identification as it applies to horses moving interstate.
Equine Species Working Group Recommendations:
Equine ID under ADTP Rule:
- The Equine Species Working Group (ESWG) recommends that only horses that are moved interstate be incorporated into the proposed Animal Disease Traceability Program (ADTP); horses moving intrastate need not be included. In addition, the ESWG recommends that horses included in the system be identified with methods that are being used by the industry today but allow new methods to be included as they develop. Specifically, the ESWG recommends that USDA include the following language in any rule to be proposed with respect to ADTP’s application to horses:
Horses and other equine moved interstate would be required to be officially identified and documented as provided in 9 CFR part 75, “Communicable Diseases in Horses, Asses, Ponies, Mules, and Zebras.” Horses and other equine moved interstate would be required to be officially identified in the new traceability regulation with one of the choices specified below:
- A description sufficient to identify the individual equine, including, name, age, breed, color, gender, distinctive markings, digital photographs, or unique and permanent forms of identification when present (e.g., brands, tattoos, scars, cowlicks, or blemishes);
- Electronic identification that complies with ISO 11784/11785; or
- Any other unique identifier that might include biometric measurements such as Iris Scans or other such unique identifier.
Horse and Other Equine Identification:
- To enhance disease surveillance through a successful identification and tracing program, states should standardize requirements for a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection and consider moving toward requiring electronic health paper standards. At the time Certificates of Veterinary Inspection are written, horses should be identified with an official form of identification that includes the Animal Identification Number (AIN), any electronic identification and a more complete description of the horse’s coat color, white markings, any unique identifying marks, including cowlicks, brands and tattoos, or digital photographs.
- Official identification is necessary when a horse is transported to any premises where a brand inspection, Certificate of Veterinary Inspection, VS 127 permit, or International Certificate of Veterinary Inspection is required.
- When appropriate, the ADTP should incorporate all current forms of equine identification, especially radio frequency identification devices (RFID), normally microchips. Existing microchips should be incorporated into the ADTP for equines.
From now on, the ISO/ANSI compatible RFID chip (11784/85, 134.2 kHz) is the recommended standard of electronic equine identification to be used in the ADTP.
Microchips should be implanted in the nuchal ligament on the left side, in the middle third of the neck, halfway between the ears and the withers.
RFID reader and scanner manufacturers and suppliers should make an immediate effort to provide readers and scanners that can read ISO/ANSI 11784/11785 livestock microchips, and read or at least detect all 125 kHz frequency companion animal microchips.
- Either the buyer or seller, as a condition of trade, shall be responsible to report change of ownership of an equine to the appropriate equine registries and databases that record transfers of ownerships.
Data Reporting Recommendation:
- Equine movements will not be reported. In the event traceback is needed, animal health officials will rely on the current system of maintaining brand inspection records, Certificates of Veterinary Inspection, VS 127 permits that are kept on file at the appropriate brand or state office or on the International Certificates of Veterinary Inspection that are currently recorded by APHIS VS. States and USDA are encouraged to move these forms into an electronic format to expedite retrieval.
- Any state or national equine identification program should encompass an initial voluntary implementation period to ensure proper testing of the program’s components and to allow sufficient time to educate horse owners and other stakeholders. Any information warehoused in a USDA-approved identification and tracking database must be FOIA-exempt. Official equine identification, if mandated, should not be implemented before regulations are proposed and adopted following a public comment period, unless disease outbreaks necessitate earlier federal compliance.
- Horses are livestock. However, the USDA must recognize the unique characteristics of the equine industry as it develops the ADTP. Here are the primary and unique characteristics of horses:
- Have longest life expectancy of livestock species (20 – 35 years).
- Are generally more valuable on an individual basis.
- Are transported more often and for greater distances.
- Participate in internationally recognized competitions including the Olympics.
- Require accurate identification to insure the integrity of a multi-billion dollar racing industry with state regulated pari-mutuel wagering.
- Are imported and exported on a regularly basis at significant expense.
- Are at great risk of theft.
- And, are in many instances already properly identified by the appropriate breed registry or horse identification services.
- The USDA should encourage those with inquiries or recommendations pertaining to official equine identification under the ADTP to contact the Equine Species Working Group for collaboration.
- When practical, the ADTP should be compatible with other nations, especially Canada and Mexico.
- The equine-related components of the ADTP should provide definitive benefits to the horse industry that exceeds the cost to stakeholders. To ensure that the horse owners and industry stakeholders do not unduly bear the costs of the development and implementation of the ADTP, the USDA should pursue funding for cooperative agreements and adequate funding for assistance to implement the ADTP.
- USDA-approved identification and movement databases must be exempt from FOIA requirements, including an exemption to block data from passing among varied governmental agencies. Only approved federal and state health authorities will have access to the ADTP-approved databases essential to the enhancement of animal disease surveillance and monitoring that is maintained by state, federal, or privately managed database.
The ADTP will be implemented through the full rulemaking process. USDA published the proposed rule on August 9, 2011. The comment period closed on December 9, 2011.
The AHC supports the efforts of the ESWG to review the Animal Disease Traceability rule and to ensure whatever new protocols are implemented do not adversely affect the industry.