Confidentiality is major NAIS concern

The 14th and final National Animal Identification System (NAIS) listening session was held just outside of Omaha Tuesday.  As with previous sessions, there was very little support for a mandatory program.

One of the major objections to NAIS is confidentiality.   Ken Pruismann of Rock Valley, Iowa, president of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, says it’s a big concern with his group’s members.

“Under a Freedom of Information Act request, USDA cannot guarantee that the animal ID database could be protected,” says Pruismann.

Michael Kelsey, executive vice president of the Nebraska Cattlemen’s organization, says his group supports having disease surveillance held and controlled by private industry, for the protection of producer information.

“Since disease surveillance is the reason for an animal ID system,” Kelsey says, “there is no reason for government to control the data or for producer information to be made available to companies, groups or individuals.”

Of the approximately two dozen people who offered comments at the Omaha listening session, only two spoke firmly in favor of mandatory national animal ID.  One of those was Bill Luckey, cattle and hog producer from Columbus, Nebraska.

“Until the animal identification is made mandatory and all premises are registered,” says Luckey, “it will never have the intended effects of improving the animal health infrastructure, and aiding in the control and eradication of highly contagious foreign and domestic animal diseases.”

Many speakers argued that current disease control and eradication programs are working well. Rancher and Grant County commissioner Dan Vinton of Whitman, Nebraska says a mandatory program is not wanted or needed in his area of western Nebraska.  He says the Grant County commissioners have even passed a resolution opposing mandatory animal ID.

“This onerous, expensive and ultimately ineffective program is not necessary,” says Vinton. “Please let the states and market-based solutions resolve this issue.”

Neil Hammerschmidt, a NAIS coordinator with the USDA, says Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack and his staff will now begin the arduous task of reviewing the listening session comments and discussing how best to proceed.

“There are certainly different perspectives on the program,” Hammerschmidt says, “As we look at the issue from a disease response capability, there is support from the majority of producers that, in fact, we want to protect our livestock and poultry from disease issues. The discussion maybe is, what is the best solution-what’s the appropriate solution.”           

Sampling of comments from the Omaha NAIS listening session (22 min MP3)

Neil Hammerschmidt (3 min MP3)

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