New Animal Disease Traceability Rule Announced by USDA

A new rule establishing general regulations for improving the traceability of U.S. livestock moving between states became final on December 20, 2012 and will become effective on March 11, 2013.  The USDA has established the animal disease traceability rule to help target when and where animal disease occurs and to facilitate a rapid response that should reduce the number of animals involved in a disease investigation.  According to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, “The United States now has a flexible, effective animal disease traceability system for livestock moving interstate, without undue burdens for ranchers and U.S. livestock businesses. The final rule meets the diverse needs of the countryside where states and tribes can develop systems for tracking animals that work best for them and their producers, while addressing any gaps in our overall disease response efforts.”

The animal disease traceability rule differs from the National Animal Identification System launched by the USDA in 2006 and later discontinued for lack of voluntary participation by producers.   An important guiding principle for the new rule is that it is state-driven. The traceability framework will be owned, led and administered by the States and Tribal Nations with federal support. The rule proposes to provide maximum flexibility for the States, Tribal Nations and producers to work together to find identification solutions that meet their local needs and to maintain traceability data at their discretion. The intent of the rule is to address only those animals moving interstate and to encourage the use of low-cost technology.

We will take a closer look at the rule in the next few months, but for now will share a few important notes about the rule:

  • Unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate must be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates.
  • The use of brands, tattoos and brand registration will be accepted as official identification when accepted by the shipping and receiving States or Tribes.
  • Backtags remain an alternative to official eartags for cattle and bison moving directly to slaughter.
  • All livestock moved interstate to a custom slaughter facility are exempt from the regulations.
  • Chicks moved interstate from a hatchery are exempt from the official identification requirements.
  • Unless moved interstate for shows, exhibitions, rodeos, or recreational events, beef cattle under 18 months of age are exempt from the official identification requirement (traceability requirements for this group will be addressed in separate rulemaking)

USDA will work with states to implement the rule in the coming months.  For more information on the new rule, visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/traceability/.

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