Animal ID system sidelined for lack of support

US - The U.S. Animal Identification Organization has been suspended for lack of interest and financing, said the group's chairman Charles Miller.
calendar icon 10 February 2007
clock icon 3 minute read
It became evident that we'd either have to change our mission statement or find other sources of funding," Miller said.

Miller said the non-profit organization's board made the decision to suspend operations Jan. 31, although the framework of operations will remain intact if there is a need for it to be revived in the future.

U.S. livestock and poultry producers now are left with a series of for-profit animal identification systems that cost more but provide other benefits, like carcass quality information, to producers.

The original idea for the USAIO came from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, but a year ago, the NCBA turned over any control it had to the non-profit group, retaining only one seat on the board of directors, Miller said.

Allen Bright, former NCBA administrator for the association's Animal ID Commission, which worked on the USAIO's framework, said the USAIO was intended to satisfy U.S. Department of Agriculture tracking needs when the USDA wanted a single non-profit database that was held in private hands. Its computers were only supposed to hold enough information for state or federal veterinarians to track a particular animal's movements and, by association, find any herd mates for animal disease control, he said.

Funding was to come from livestock and poultry producers who entered their data into the system, Bright said.

No producer data was ever entered into the system, even though it was ready to go, Miller said. Data that was to be loaded into USAIO database computers still resides with two parent organizations, he said. The Northwest Pilot Project and the Southeast Livestock Network, which are regional animal identification organizations involved in the creation of the databases, hold the information.

For Miller, deactivating the USAIO leaves a void in the U.S. animal tracking system. He did not feel that the private, for-profit firms were really looking out for the best interests of livestock producers.

"They have to be interested in making a profit," he said. He said was sure the for-profit companies were reputable firms, but he wanted a system that spread the costs out among the livestock industry.

Bright said the non-profit and for-profit systems each had their benefits. Neither was better than the other, but they were different.

However, in light of the USDA's diverse-database approach to animal identification and tracking, private firms are all that is left, Miller said.

Those private systems seem to hold some appeal, Miller said. Cattle producers already are getting premiums for supply or process verification, and such programs could become the norm in the future.

Bright said the USAIO blazed the trail of animal identification in the U.S., although in some respects it became obsolete before it ever got started. When the USDA changed its mind and said it wold work with multiple private databases for the national identification program, the single database idea lost appeal, especially when the USDA agreed to a system of cooperation between programs.

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