Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced the release of an implementation plan that outlines timelines and benchmarks for the establishment of the National Animal Identification System, along with a plan for the initial integration of private and state animal tracking databases with NAIS.

”Developing an effective animal identification system has been a high priority for USDA and we’ve made significant strides toward achieving a comprehensive U.S. system,” said Johanns. “We recognize that this represents one of the largest systematic changes ever faced by the livestock industry and we have welcomed suggestions from stakeholders to ensure that we continue to gain momentum. The plan we are releasing today will guide our efforts as we continue to work with our state and industry partners to implement a nationwide system.”

The implementation plan continues to set an aggressive timeline for ensuring full implementation of the NAIS by 2009. It establishes benchmarks for incrementally accomplishing the remaining implementation goals to enable the NAIS to be operational by 2007, and to achieve full producer participation by 2009. Several important components have already been accomplished. These include the development of premises registration systems in each state and the issuance of guidelines for the manufacture and distribution of animal identification numbers. More than 235,000 premises are currently registered.

USDA is also releasing the general technical standards for animal tracking databases that will enable integration of private systems with the NAIS. Private database owners are invited to submit applications for system evaluation to USDA and offer feedback as the final technical requirements are established. USDA will then enter into cooperative agreements with owners of databases that meet the standards. The application for system evaluation and a draft cooperative agreement are available on the NAIS Web site at www.usda.gov/nais.

By early 2007, USDA expects to have the technology in place, called the Animal Trace Processing System or commonly known as the metadata system, that will allow state and federal animal health officials to query the NAIS and private databases during a disease investigation. The animal tracking databases will record and store animal movement tracking information for livestock that state and federal animal health officials will query for animals of interest in a disease investigation.

Training sessions will be offered to organizations interested in distributing animal identification number tags as either a tag manager or tag reseller. Two USDA-sponsored Web conferences about the administration of AIN tags and a demonstration of the AIN Management System are scheduled for Thursday, April 13, at 1 p.m., and Wednesday, April 26, at 1 p.m., eastern time. Details of the Web conferences are available on the NAIS Web site.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is also finalizing $3 million in funds that will be awarded to a number of states and tribes to conduct field trials to analyze information pertaining to animal identification. Field trials will focus on the evaluation of new technologies for animal identification and automated data collection. APHIS will also fund an economic study focusing on the cost of NAIS implementation within a state; the development of procedures to measure the performance of identification devices and a bi-state study to develop recommendations regarding livestock exhibitions to achieve compatibility with the NAIS.

APHIS has awarded approximately $27 million in funds to states and tribes to advance the national animal identification initiative. This funding has been used primarily for premises identification and registration. APHIS is updating a summary report detailing what has been accomplished through previously funded field trials and pilot projects. This report will be made public upon completion.

Throughout the establishment and implementation of the NAIS, USDA has engaged in extensive dialogue with producers and industry organizations across the country to gauge their views on animal identification. In April, 2005, USDA published a draft strategic plan and draft program standards for the NAIS and invited public comments on those documents. Industry-specific working groups have also been studying the issue of animal identification and will be making recommendations to USDA through an established advisory committee on how best to tailor the program to meet their industry-specific needs.

Additionally, USDA hosted a public meeting in Kansas City, Mo., in November 2005, to receive comments from cooperators and stakeholders on the animal movement-tracking component of the NAIS. In total, these efforts have ensured that momentum continues to build around this important effort. USDA believes that it is critically important to develop the appropriate framework for the system to ensure successful implementation and wide-scale support.