The following commentary does not necessarily reflect the views of AgWeb or Farm Journal. The opinions expressed below are the author's own.
During its recent annual conference, the U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA) discussed the need for improved traceability across the U.S. cattle marketing chain. The USAHA, whose membership includes state and federal animal-health officials responsible for managing the federal Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) program, favors a combination of mandatory and voluntary programs for addressing disease intervention and traceability goals.
The specific purpose of the ADT program, USAHA notes, is to allow rapid and accurate traceability of diseased cattle allowing identification, containment and removal of these animals for control purposes or to achieve or maintain disease eradication. Compliance with the mandatory ADT rules for eligible animals remains critical for achieving that goal, USAHA says, but the current ADT program’s limited nature creates a need for continued efforts on voluntary programs, both public and private, for more comprehensive traceability.
The mandatory ADT program for example, excludes feeder cattle, which comprise the largest population of cattle transported and comingled around the country, and potentially the greatest risk for spreading disease. Voluntary programs such as the USDA’s Process Verified Programs (PVP) and Quality System Assessment (QSA) can add value to beef production chains and thus provide economic incentives for participants to ensure traceability.
In 2017, the USDA formed a “State and Federal Working Group” with substantial experience and knowledge of animal disease traceability. Based on stakeholder feedback collected during 2017, the group issued a list of 14 recommendations for the advancement of animal disease traceability. Those recommendations included:
- Maintain policy that interstate movements to a custom slaughter facility do not apply to traceability regulation.
- Maintain the current population covered by official ID requirements, including all dairy cattle, beef cattle greater than 18 months of age and all rodeo and exhibition cattle.
- Instead of limiting official ID to interstate movements, consider triggers to require official ID such as change of ownership or first point of comingling.
- Move toward standardized electronic identification (EID) systems for all official identification by 2023.
- Create a secure online database for electronic data entry and access.
- Strategic enforcement of ADT regulations to ensure a high level of compliance.
- Improve the rates of ID collection and correlation at slaughter.
- Enable private information systems to be utilized for disease surveillance and response events when needed.
- Clarify exemptions to official ID requirements, including removing exemptions allowing states to agree on alternative ID methods and for cattle moving to slaughter through one approved livestock facility.
- Clarify requirements for Interstate Certificates of. Veterinary Inspection (ICVI), with emphasis on use of electronic ICVIs.
- Improve uniformity of state import regulations.
- Consider standardizing official ID tags nationally.
- Develop an option for an official EID tag for imported cattle.
- Retain, for now, the exemption for feeder cattle, with plans to address the issue at a later date.
USAHA notes that feedback from stakeholders has supported moving the current mandatory ADT program forward with enhancements to make it more efficient, while keeping feeder cattle traceability voluntary.
Based on public feedback and the working group recommendations, the USAHA passed a 2018 Resolution to prioritize enhancing the existing mandatory ADT program based upon the fourteen recommendations, asking USDA to maintain support for voluntary value-added programs and augment opportunities for the feeding sector to enhance trade and marketing.
Read more resolutions from the USAHA conference.
For more about traceability and the ADT program, read these articles on BovineVetOnline.