Beef group testifies against mandatory animal identification

Beef groups oppose a mandatory national animal identification system.
Beef groups oppose a mandatory national animal identification system.
A major beef industry group on Wednesday testified against a proposal to have all livestock tagged by a mandatory animal identification system in a House agriculture subcommittee hearing.

Max Thornsberry, president of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, said making the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) mandatory would be too expensive for U.S. ranchers and an ineffective measure for stopping the spread of animal-borne diseases.

Representative David Scott, the chairman of the subcommittee on livestock, said a mandatory system "would help protect producers against the spread of minor animal diseases, as well as from the devastating economic effects of major diseases," according to a report in Farm Futures.

The National Pork Producers Council urged Congress to support and fund a mandatory program applied to all livestock. But Thornsberry said a traceback system to identify the infected animals within 48 hours of an outbreak would do nothing to control diseases with long incubation periods.

For diseases that spread quickly, an outbreak "require[s] immediate geographical containment and quarantine strategies, not the identification of individual animals-of-interest," Thornsberry said.

Thornsberry also said the impetus behind NAIS is the demands of foreign trading partners and the World Trade Organization, not the best interests of American ranchers and consumers.