The National Animal Identification System was the focus of a joint hearing of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry and the Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and Science and Technology on Tuesday.
Among those testifying was USDA Chief Veterinarian John Clifford, who told committee members that NAIS is the most important information tool needed in a rapid response to an animal disease outbreak.
"To make these decisions we need the ability to quickly and reliably determine what animals are carriers of disease, what animals are at risk and what animals are unaffected," Clifford said.
Clifford says that while a strong infrastructure is in place for NAIS, with only 35% participation, the effectiveness of the program is hampered. There has been pressure to make the program mandatory and Clifford said that all available options need to be studied with stakeholders before any decision is made.
Another issue that came up during the hearing was the jurisdiction of the NAIS. Currently USDA oversees the program, but it has been suggested that perhaps the system may end up falling under the jurisdiction of another government agency such as the Department of Homeland Security. However Homeland Security Chief Veterinarian Thomas McGinn on Tuesday was quick to dispel that idea.
"There is no way that we are in any way, shape or form looking to change the jurisdiction," McGinn said. "USDA has the technical lead and has the authority to know what we need to do as it relates to food and agriculture; they have 150 years of experience. We are here to support their efforts and their expertise."