Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns recently unveiled a thinking paper and timeline on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and called on agriculture producers, leaders and industry partners to provide feedback.

Both documents are available on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's NAIS Web site at http://www.usda.gov/nais and will be published in the Federal Register.

"The documents we're releasing offer a draft plan to move the public discussion forward on this important initiative," Johanns said. "We created these documents with guidance from the NAIS advisory committee and with a great deal of input from producers. We're proposing answers to some of the key questions about how we envision this system moving forward. Now, I'm eager to hear from farmers and ranchers so we can develop a final plan."

A comprehensive description of system standards will be determined over time through field trials, user experience and the federal rulemaking process. These documents lay out, in more detail, projected timelines and potential avenues to achieve system milestones. For example, these documents propose requiring stakeholders to identify premises and animals according to NAIS standards by January 2008. Requiring full recording of defined animal movements is proposed by January 2009.

The Federal Register notice acknowledges the outstanding concerns of some stakeholders and frames questions for which USDA will be seeking answers as it moves forward with the NAIS. These questions pertain to funding for the system, confidentiality of data in the system and flexibility of the system, among other things.

Consideration will be given to comments received on or before June 6, 2005. Participants are to send an original and three copies of postal or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. 050-15-1, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3C71, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Comments can be submitted by using the Internet, an easy link to the NAIS docket and comment form will be available on the NAIS home page at http://www.usda.gov/nais.

Once USDA receives feedback on the documents, it will follow the normal rulemaking process before any aspects of the NAIS become mandatory. The public will have the opportunity to submit additional comments on any proposed regulations.