Privacy concerns prompt bill aimed at livestock tracking

US - The state veterinarian hopes farmers will be more receptive to tagging and registering their livestock if such information is kept private.
calendar icon 3 January 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
Out of more than 3,900 farms in the state, only three dozen have signed up for the voluntary National Animal Identification System, a program created a decade ago to identify animals and record their movement and lifespan. The goal is to help protect livestock and the public during a flu outbreak.

Dr. Stephen Crawford is backing a bill that would prohibit the public disclosure of information collected under the program in most cases in hopes that more farmers will participate.

"I view it as an emergency management tool," Crawford said. "My department has responsibilities for animals in an emergency. God forbid we get avian flu. I have no idea right now where these flocks are and how to contact them."

State Rep. Timothy O'Connell, R-Milford, has filed a bill on Crawford's behalf that would exempt the disclosure of livestock records except in the case of a "reporting animal health investigation."

O'Connell said he has not registered his own half-dozen chickens under the national program, but believes such a program could become mandatory for commercial farmers by 2009 and perhaps for all livestock owners in years to come. He compared the bill to health privacy regulations for humans.

"We are looking to protect all animal health information," he said. "I couldn't release it without the permission of the participating farmer. This would be much like human health records."

Crawford said he does not support a mandatory registration but wants some way to contact backyard farmers if there is an outbreak. He said a national survey conducted in 2004 estimated that 7 percent of households in the eastern United States owned backyard birds, which would amount 33,200 flocks in New Hampshire.

Source: Times Argus
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