The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) being created won’t become mandatory until all confidentiality issues have been addressed, assures U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Bill Hawkes.

The administration hopes to make that a reality by 2009, he reports to members of the Animal Identification and Information Systems Committee for the National Institute for Animal Agriculture at its annual meeting recently. To deal with the issue of confidentiality, the Bush Administration has sent a bill to Congress exempting the data collected for NAIS from the Freedom of Information Act.

A required NAIS report has been sent to Congress, and as a result, Hawkes says $33 million in NAIS operating funds should be released soon.

Neil Hammerschmidt, NAIS coordinator for USDA, says USDA will soon publish the NAIS Strategic Plan in the Federal Register. He urged industry leaders to review the plan carefully and submit comments and recommendations.