I’m about to check off my 20th anniversary of covering the cattle industry, and it seems for most of that time, we’ve been discussing the issue of animal disease traceability. Back in 2002, I participated in a diverse committee, organized by USDA and the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA), intended to develop a framework for a national animal traceability system. The program was focused entirely on animal health, with a goal of rapid containment of infectious-disease outbreaks in U.S. livestock herds. The process resulted in the U.S. Animal Identification Plan, or USAIP, which later evolved into USDA’s National Animal Identification System, or NAIS. That plan ran into considerable opposition in the country, along with economic and logistical barriers, and eventually was scrapped.

Now, though, we have a system in place, as USDA’s Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) rules took effect in March 2013. This scaled-down program requires documentation for several classes of cattle marketed across state lines while shifting most of the responsibility to states and tribes. Veterinarians will be closely involved as covered cattle will need an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection (ICVI) to cross state lines, and buyers and sellers in both states will need to retain ICVI records. For more about the system, read “The ABCs of ADT.”

But while USDA’s ADT rules are fairly clear, most states have not yet finalized their systems or requirements. Harmonization between all states and tribes will be critical for the program’s success and feasibility for producers and veterinarians.

Next week (August 7 and 7) I’ll be attending the Joint Strategy Forum on Animal Disease Traceability, hosted by the NIAA and the U.S. Animal Health Association. The forum will bring USDA officials, state veterinarians and industry representatives together to, hopefully, hammer out some consensus on how states and tribes can harmonize their systems and streamline animal movement and documentation while facilitating rapid intervention in case of a disease outbreak.

I’d be interested to hear from veterinarians in the field as to what you think of the ADT rules and how you would like the system to work in your states. Is the program on the right track? Please comment here or drop me an e-mail at JMaday@vancepublishing.com.