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Livestock industry representatives voiced concern

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HAY MAKER

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KANSAS CITY (DOW JONES)--Livestock industry representatives voiced concern
last week about the U.S. Department of Agriculture's August decision to turn
over control of a national livestock identification database to track billions of animals to the private sector.

At its annual meeting last week, the U.S. Animal Health Association drafted
a resolution that is to be hand-delivered to USDA Secretary Mike Johanns,
said J. Lee Alley, veterinarian and secretary of the group.

David Warner, National Pork Producers Council director of communications,
said the statement said, "The U.S. Animal Health Association urges the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to implement the animal tracking database for disease surveillance and monitoring as initially outlined in the National Animal Identification System plan."

"If the USDA puts its national animal-identification data tracking database in a public corporation, it would be publicly funded," Warner said.
Alley said there is a mix of groups that belong to the ASAHA but that the statement really isn't a change of heart for those members voting for it. Supporters say the cost should be born by the government because it is needed for disease monitoring and surveillance, and the public benefits from such activities.

Chuck Kiker, R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America president-elect, who was
at the USAHA meeting, said, "it was a message to (the USDA) on the direction
everybody wanted them to go."

Kiker said the database should not be run by private industry groups with their own agendas.

Jay Truitt, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said his group was present at the USAHA but that the statement is contrary to the NCBA's position.

"We're happy with the decision the Secretary made in August," to go with a privately controlled database, Truitt said.

It also would seem to be counterproductive to the traceback system's intent to swing it back to a government-run organization at this point, Truitt said. The NCBA, which has been spearheading the effort to get the system entrusted into private hands, is working on a beta system right now that is expected to be ready for use shortly after the first of the year.

Moving it back into government hands would slow down the process and delay what could be an operating system, Truitt said.

Alley said local and state veterinarians are concerned mostly about accessibility. They want the system to be accessible for disease traceback 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"Many cattle producers and sale barns are worried about the cost", Alley said. They are concerned that if the system is privately held, the government will force them to invest millions for a public benefit.
Many trade sources also say they are concerned about privacy issues. They are concerned that various groups or companies could find some way of accessing the information on individual production and inventories and use it against them economically.

Trade groups have pushed for a Congressional exemption from the Freedom of Information Act to guard against unwanted access to information, but Truitt said he has yet to get a legal opinion about a confidentiality clause. Without this protection, the best bet is to keep it in private hands.
 

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