Washington -- The Senate voted this week to slash funding for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) developed by the Department of Agriculture as a means of protecting the nation's food supply.
-- The Senate voted this week to slash funding for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) developed by the Department of Agriculture as a means of protecting the nation's food supply.
Farmers and ranchers in several Western states, along with some agriculture organizations, opposed the program as intrusive and unworkable, arguing that food-safety problems are more likely to originate at the processing stage rather than on farms.
The American Veterinary Medical Association backs a mandatory animal identification tracking system as the most effective way to minimize an animal disease outbreak. Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, the AVMA's CEO and executive vice president, delivered a message to Congress in March urging the program be approved.
Making the NAIS mandatory would allow for quick control of diseases entering the food supply, save millions of animal lives and billions of dollars and shield public health and U.S. trade from profound damages, DeHaven said. "The U.S. cannot afford to wait for a crisis to make a mandatory animal identification system a reality," he said.
A bipartisan amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Act to cut this year's funding for the animal ID program in half, from $14.6 million to $7.3 million, passed the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously on Monday, and then was passed the next day by the full Senate 80-17.
The amendment was co-sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., a Montana ranch owner, and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.
“The animal ID program should remain strictly voluntary,” said Enzi. NAIS would require everyone from large cattle operations to backyard chicken owners to tag all livestock and regularly report the animals' location to the government. The USDA has spent several years and $142 million developing the program.
The amendment, according to Enzi, allows reasonable funding for a voluntary ID program without burdening farmers and ranchers.
The House earlier deleted all funding for NAIS, and an attempt to do the same in the Senate failed.
The Senate bill limiting funding now goes to a conference committee to work out a compromise.