WASHINGTON – Industry trade groups were encouraged by the US Department of Agriculture's final rule on animal disease traceability. USDA announced the final rule which will establish general regulations for improving traceability of US livestock moving interstate.

Unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate would have to be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates, according to USDA. Beef cattle under 18 months of age are exempt from the official identification requirement, unless they are moved interstate for shows, exhibitions, rodeos, or recreational events. USDA said specific traceability requirements for this livestock category will be addressed in separate rulemaking.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association said the group will thoroughly review the rule and share the information with NCBA members. NCBA said in a statement:

“From the Secretary’s comments, NCBA is encouraged that many of the priorities of cattlemen and women have been considered in this final rule. Cattlemen and women are looking for a rule that does not come with additional costs and does not hinder the speed of commerce. Brands will be recognized when accompanied by an official brand inspection certificate as means of official identification for cattle. The rule will also allow flexibility in tagging procedures and paperwork. Most important to cattle producers is the Secretary’s announcement of separate rulemaking for beef cattle under 18 months of age.

“Raising healthy cattle is a top priority for cattlemen. NCBA remains supportive of an animal disease traceability program for cattle health purposes. We commend APHIS for its efforts to listen to concerns of America’s cattlemen in developing this traceability program. NCBA encourages the agency to continue working with industry leaders on this and all animal health issues.”

The National Pork Producers Council praised USDA for issuing the rule. NPPC said many major livestock producing countries have implemented or will implement animal traceability systems. Additionally, many countries that import meat require such systems as a condition for importing meat, NPPC said.

“An effective traceability system is critical to our nation’s animal health infrastructure and is one of the components the World Organization for Animal Health considers essential for an effective veterinary services program,” said R.C. Hunt, NPPC president and a pork producer from Wilson, NC. “The goal of a traceability system is trace back of an animal to its farm of origin within 48 hours of the discovery of a disease. That would allow a disease to be brought under control and eradicated more quickly, saving animals — and taxpayer dollars — and keeping foreign markets open to our exports.”