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An Update on the Animal Disease Traceability Framework

On February 5, 2010, USDA announced a new, flexible framework for animal disease traceability in the United States. The Secretary of Agriculture and other USDA officials launched a widespread listening tour in 2010 to hear comments, concerns, and to discuss potential solutions to create a program producers can feel comfortable supporting.

USDA believes the traceability framework provides the basic tenets of an improved animal disease traceability capability. USDA continues to review and use comments and discussions collected during the listening tour to develop a flexible, coordinated approach for livestock moving interstate. The purpose of the draft proposed regulation for livestock moving interstate has always been to:

  • Apply only to animals moved interstate;
  • Be administered by the States and Tribal Nations to provide more flexibility;
  • Encourage the use of lower-cost technology; and
  • Be implemented transparently through federal regulations and the full rulemaking process.

It is also important to note how the proposed framework will affect the practice of branding for livestock moving interstate.

USDA supports the use of brands to identify cattle moving interstate. Further, USDA recognizes the value of brands and their prevalence in the western United States. The approach in the draft proposed regulation will provide flexibility for States and Tribes to use brands for compliance with the proposed requirements for interstate movement.

Under USDA’s traceability framework and the upcoming draft proposed regulation for livestock moving interstate, those States and Tribes who elect to use brands will be allowed to do so. The draft proposed regulation clearly states that cattle and bison moved between shipping and receiving States or Tribes may alternatively be identified with another form of identification, including brands, tattoos, and breed registry certificates as agreed upon by animal health officials in the shipping and receiving States or Tribes.

In the draft proposed rule, USDA will define official identification methods for each species. Establishing the official identification method in the draft proposed rule will provide clarity to livestock owners and ensure that no one State or Tribe can deny a method of official identification or require a specific method of official identification for entry of livestock into their jurisdiction. These official identification methods or devices will be accepted by all States and Tribes for the entry of livestock into their jurisdictions, in addition to those agreed upon by animal health officials in the shipping and receiving State or Tribes.

One Response to “An Update on the Animal Disease Traceability Framework”

  1. Kenny Fox says:

    Dear Dr. Clifford:

    We are deeply troubled by your USDA Blog titled “An Update on the Animal Disease Traceability Framework” and posted on July 27, 2011. Your blog omits entirely what we believe to be the most important promise USDA made to our cattle industry on February 5, 2010. That promise, which USDA repeated throughout its 2010 explanation of its new approach to achieving animal disease traceability, was to establish a system that provided cattle producers with the flexibility to choose the type of identification device that works best for them, including the choice to continue using a hot-iron brand.

    USDA’s 2010 written explanation stated it would establish a system “that is flexible and lets States, Tribal Nations, and producers use their expertise to find and use the animal disease traceability approaches that work best for them.” (Emphasis added.)

    USDA reinforced this promise by clearly stating the flexibility to be extended to cattle producers included the producer-option of choosing to use brands as their choice of an official animal identification device. USDA expressly stated, “USDA will maintain a list of official identification devices, which can be updated or expanded based on the needs of the States and Tribal Nations. There are many official identification options available, such as branding, metal tags, RFID, just to name a few.” (Emphasis added.)

    Your blog, however, indicates that USDA intends to break its promise to cattle producers by removing brands from the list of official identification options, thus reducing the flexibility producers now enjoy and eliminating options that are currently available to them. Under your proposal, the choice to use a registered brand for identifying cattle in interstate commerce is no longer an option for individual cattle producers and no longer an option for an individual State or Tribal Nation. Instead, the option to continue using brands to identify cattle in interstate commerce will only be available if two States and/or two Tribal Nations mutually agree to continue using the brand despite its demotion from the list of approved official identifications options.

    Your blog makes it clear that USDA intends to break its promise to U.S. cattle producers and we find such a dishonorable action not only unbecoming of a federal agency, but also, unacceptable.


    Kenny Fox


    R-CALF USA Animal Identification Committee

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