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HAY MAKER

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting that it examine USDA's plans for a National Animal Identification System. After two years, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has yet to implement an animal ID program and has failed to inform producers and state governments of costs the system will impose on them. An animal ID system is needed to contain and quickly eradicate animal diseases such as avian flu, Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow) from livestock and poultry.



"Animal diseases have huge potential to disrupt America's food production and distribution system, turning livestock and poultry markets on their head," said Harkin. "After two years of discussions, USDA has no clear plan for moving forward with a workable system. Producers are getting upset that they still don't know how much the system will cost them and who will run it."



Last month, Harkin wrote to Secretary Mike Johanns urging that USDA inform producers about the potential costs of the system to their operations. Harkin also asked USDA to justify its plan to hand over responsibility for animal tracking data to private entities.

"This GAO report will shed needed light on how USDA is developing the animal ID system. USDA has spent many hours and a lot of money developing an animal tracking database. Then, without seeking needed input from all sectors of the livestock and poultry industry, USDA scrapped the original plan and now wants the database to be kept by a private entity."

In April, USDA issued a draft strategic plan outlining the time-frame for having the national animal identification system fully operational in the United States: by January 2008, USDA is to require all premises (farms with livestock or poultry) and individual animals or groups of animals to be identified and registered in the system. The tracking of the transportation and movement of animals will also become mandatory by January 2009.
 

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