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February 6, 2009

Arkansas Legislation Introduced

HB1046, introduced by Rep. Roy Ragland, a cattleman in northern Arkansas, would protect animal owners from NAIS and any other animal identification program from becoming mandatory in Arkansas. The bill makes the decision to participate or not participate left up to the property/animal owner. Rep. Ragland is the Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, and also a member of the Arkansas Animal Producer’s Association.

Proposed USDA Regulations Change Announced

USDA has announced a proposed rule change which they have summarized as follows:
“We are proposing to amend the domestic livestock regulations to require that when animal identification numbers (AINs) are used, only those numbers beginning with the 840 prefix will be recognized as official for use on all AIN tags applied to animals 1 year or more after the date on which this proposed rule is finalized. In addition, we are proposing to require that all new premises identification numbers (PINs) that are issued on or after the effective date of this rule use the seven-character alphanumeric code format. Official eartags that use a premises based numbering system issued after a 1-year phase-in period will be required to use the seven-character alphanumeric code format as well. Further, we are proposing several changes pertaining to the use of the U.S. shield on official eartags, numbering systems that use such eartags, and the correlation of those numbering systems with the PIN. These proposed changes are intended to achieve greater standardization and uniformity of official numbering systems and eartags and to enhance animal traceability, as discussed in previous Federal Register documents pertaining to the National Animal Identification System.”

Since this proposed rule change does not delve into previously approved identification systems, such as those used by NPGA (tattoos and microchips), I contacted Linda Campbell, chair of the Goat Working Group to which I belong, to get some clarification on whether or not NPGA’s identification systems would be affected by this rule change should it be approved by USDA. She said, “They (USDA) are still honoring our request to keep the goat ID methods that we recommended in place… they are just transitioning from old tags/devices, to the 840 AIN numbers…” Essentially, if all of this is true, this proposed rule change would have no impact on NPGA’s animal identification systems.

Texas Legislation Introduced

SB682, introduced by Sen. Eltife, would stop the Texas Animal Health Commission from making NAIS mandatory. Under the current law, the TAHC has the authority to make NAIS mandatory whenever it wishes. SB682 removes that authority and repeals the civil and criminal penalties for noncompliance. In addition, SB682 contains several important protections:

  • Requires notice that the program is voluntary before anyone can be enrolled;

  • Provides the right to withdraw at any time and have one’s information deleted;

  • Bars any person (government or private) from conditioning any services, benefits, licenses, payments or permits on participating. In other words, no carrots or sticks may be used to get people to participate;

  • Forbids the agency from mandating NAIS premises registration or identification as part of any other government program, which includes existing disease control programs;

  • Requires the agency to notify people who are already registered and inform them that they can withdraw.

SB682 includes a provision that allows the TAHC to mandate the NAIS if and only if the USDA adopts a final rule under the Administrative Procedures Act mandating NAIS. This “federal trigger” is not ideal, but it has been carefully limited. Timelines and guidance documents, like the Business Plan and User Guide, would not allow the TAHC to move forward with a mandatory NAIS. Only a final rule would trigger the provision. Moreover, TAHC could not move any faster or further than the USDA in implementing NAIS.

Ray Hoyt
NPGA President/NAIS Coordinator



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