Recent Press Releases

Before the U.S. Department of Agriculture charges ahead with an animal identification system, farmers and ranchers need to know the costs and benefits and that sensitive business information will remain secure. U.S. Senators John Thune, R-S.D. and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., drove that point home in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today.

"I have some serious concerns with the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) that I would like the new Administration to address," said Thune. "I believe that a thorough cost-benefit analysis of the NAIS program is necessary to give South Dakota producers a better understanding of what they can expect from the voluntary system. If such a study demonstrated significant benefit to producers and USDA ensures information will be secure, producers would be more inclined to participate in making the program successful."

"Ranching is a business and for any business to undertake a new venture it needs to know what it's getting into. If a voluntary program is going to be successful, ranchers must be confident that their livelihoods will not be jeopardized," Enzi said. "Without a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis from the USDA this system is going to have a hard time getting off the ground."

The senators wrote that a voluntary, market-oriented animal identification system will succeed only if a substantial number of livestock producers, processors, veterinarians, and other animal handlers participate in such a program. The senators also wrote that the USDA must ensure that all sensitive business information should be used only by appropriate animal health authorities in the event of a disease outbreak.

The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is designed to allow participants to trace livestock diseases to the source of an outbreak. NAIS joins a number of existing state and local efforts to improve responses to animal disease outbreaks.

Vilsack announced April 15 that he will soon hold listening sessions around the country to discuss concerns about the development of the program.

Enzi and Thune encourage Wyoming and South Dakota ranchers and farmers to participate and get their ideas and concerns to the USDA.

A copy of the Thune-Enzi letter is below.

April 16, 2009

The Honorable Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

We write today about the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and the ongoing efforts to keep our herds healthy and our food supply secure.

A voluntary, market-oriented animal identification system will succeed only if a substantial number of livestock producers, processors, veterinarians, and other animal handlers participate in such a program. Before a critical mass of producers participate in a voluntary program, these producers must be aware of the costs of participation and the benefits to consumers, their operation, and the livestock industry as a whole. Producers must also be confident in the abilities of the program to protect information. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must ensure that sensitive business information is kept secure and used only by the appropriate public authorities in the event of a disease outbreak.

We respectfully request that USDA conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of NAIS. This study should consider the costs of complying with NAIS and compare those costs with the benefits of an effective national animal trace back program. Such a study should span the entire supply chain and analyze the costs and benefits for individual producers across the broad spectrum of various sizes and types of livestock production operations in different regions of the country.

We also request that the new Administration work with Congress and the livestock industry to provide a clear and concise direction for the future of NAIS including a resolution to several outstanding implementation issues and a comprehensive review of the safety and security of sensitive animal identification databases. We agree that the diverse set of stakeholders must have input on future NAIS policies, and to this extent, we thank you for your recent outreach to the livestock community through a nationwide listening tour.

We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter and look forward to working with you on this and other issues important to the safety of our food supply.


U.S. Senator John Thune
U.S. Senator Mike Enzi