WASHINGTON – A mandatory identification and tracking system for livestock and poultry being shipped across state lines is being proposed by the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. However, APHIS officials said poultry flocks being moved across state lines directly to slaughter will not come under the new requirements, nor will birds being sent to diagnostic facilities, or flocks participating in the National Poultry Improvement Programs (NPIP). NPIP and other programs “provide USDA and its partners with pertinent traceability information,” the agency said.

“Thus, the proposed animal disease traceability regulations focus on those species, such as the cattle sector, where improved capabilities are most needed,” APHIS said in a notice of a proposed rule published Aug. 11 in the Federal Register and is open for comment until Nov. 9. “That sector’s inconsistent use of official identification coupled with the significant movement of cattle interstate warrants regulations that enhance the current traceability infrastructure.”

This tracking system would help reassure foreign meat buyers in the event of a widespread outbreak of disease, said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in a conference call with the media. “Other countries that have a traceability system have used that as a way of gaining market advantage,” he added.

Mandatory traceability has been a lightening rod in the food animal industry. The National Pork Producers Council commended APHIS for its approach, while the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said it would “carefully analyze and comment on” the proposed rule.

Animals generally moving across state lines will have to have an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI) and a Group Identification Number (GIN) or be individually tagged. This does not apply to animals being moved within a state or to interstate movements of animals directly to registered slaughter facilities or to diagnostic facilities.

However, the rule does apply to birds being shipped to live-bird markets. They will have to have veterinary certificates and either a group number or individual numbering devices such as leg bands.