U.S. Senator Jim Talent, R-Mo., a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced legislation on Sept. 7 that would prohibit USDA from developing a mandatory National Animal Identification System. U.S. Representative Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., introduced companion legislation in the House to make the Department's animal identification system strictly voluntary.
"The development and implementation of an animal ID system must be voluntary and done in cooperation with producers rather than by coercing them to participate," says Talent, chairman of the subcommittee on marketing, inspection and promotion. "I have made this point repeatedly to USDA. This legislation takes the next step in prohibiting the Department from implementing or enacting a mandatory National Animal Identification System."
The Talent-Emerson bill would prohibit the USDA from mandating livestock owner participation in a NAIS. The legislation would also address privacy concerns stemming from the collection of registration information in a voluntary program. Under the Talent-Emerson proposal, confidential records submitted to USDA by livestock owners would not be subject to any request under the Freedom of Information Act and could only be shared with other departments under specific circumstances.
"A well constructed voluntary system will offer opportunities for participating ranchers to increase their profits," Talent says. "However, we are a long way from getting the infrastructure in place for such a program and concerns about forced participation will only deflect time and attention from the issues we must address for ranchers in