The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has issued a proposed rule that would establish regulations to improve the traceability of livestock moving interstate when disease has been identified. According to APHIS, the proposal aims to provide a new “adoptable approach that will help us find animals associated with a disease quickly, focus our efforts on those animals, and minimize harm to producers.”

Defining animal disease traceability as “knowing where diseased and at-risk animals are, where they’ve been, and when,” the plan would require livestock moving interstate, unless exempted, to be (i) officially identified by approved forms for each species, such as metal eartags for cattle, and (ii) accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates. Alternative forms of identification, such as brands or tattoos, would be permitted if agreed to by receiving states or tribes, which would administer the traceability framework to provide more flexibility. Producers who raise animals to feed themselves, their families and immediate neighbors would be exempt, and those animals would also be exempt if moved interstate to custom slaughter facilities.  

Addressing the cattle industry, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asserted that current “low levels of official identification in the cattle sector require more cattle, often thousands of head, to be tested more than necessary.” The proposed rule would require fewer cattle to be held and tested, thus affecting fewer producers and reducing economic impacts, he said. Noting that bovine tuberculosis investigations can frequently take several months, Vilsack said the plan could reduce trace-back investigations to weeks or days.  

USDA requests comments on the proposal by November 9, 2011. See USDA Press Release and Media Conference Transcript, August 9, 2011; Federal Register, August 11, 2011.