The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced plans today to develop a new, flexible framework for animal disease traceability in the United States, and pursue several other steps to further strengthen disease prevention and response capabilities.

"After concluding our listening tour on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) in 15 cities across the country, receiving thousands of comments from the public and input from states, tribal nations, industry groups and representatives for small and organic farmers, it is apparent that a new strategy for animal disease traceability is needed," says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "I've decided to revise the prior policy and offer a new approach to animal disease traceability with changes that respond directly to the feedback we heard."

The framework was unveiled today at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture mid-year meeting. The basic tenets outlined below, designed to improve animal disease traceability capability in the United States, will:

--Only apply to animals moved in interstate commerce;
--Be administered by the states and tribal nations to provide more flexibility;
--Encourage the use of lower-cost technology; and
--Be implemented transparently through federal regulations and the full rulemaking process.

"One of my main goals for this new approach is to build a collaborative process for shaping and implementing our framework for animal disease traceability," Vilsack says. "We are committed to working in partnership with states, tribal nations and industry in the coming months to address many of the details of this framework, and giving ample opportunity for farmers and ranchers and the public to provide us with continued input through this process."

One of the first steps will be to convene an animal health forum about the best possible ways of achieving a flexible, coordinated approach to animal disease traceability.

Actions in this new approach include lessening the risk from disease introduction; initiating and updating analyses on how animal diseases travel into the country; improving response capabilities; and focusing on greater collaborations and analyses with states and industry on potential disease risk overall.

For more information, go to www.usda.gov.