USDA announced a final rule establishing regulations to implement a national animal traceability system for U.S. livestock moving interstate. Under the final rule, 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. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “With the final rule announced today, the United States now has a flexible, effective animal disease traceability system for livestock moving interstate, without undue burdens for ranchers and U.S. livestock businesses. The final rule meets the diverse needs of the countryside where states and tribes can develop systems for tracking animals that work best for them and their producers, while addressing any gaps in our overall disease response efforts.” USDA said after taking into consideration public comments, the final rule has several differences from the proposed rule issued in August 2011, including:

· Accepting the use of brands, tattoos and brand registration as official identification when accepted by the shipping and receiving states or tribes.

· Permanently maintaining the use of backtags as an alternative to official eartags for cattle and bison moved directly to slaughter.

· Accepting movement documentation other than an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI) for all ages and classes of cattle when accepted by the shipping and receiving states or tribes.

· Clarifying that all livestock moved interstate to a custom slaughter facility are exempt from the regulations.

· Exempting chicks moved interstate from a hatchery from the official identification requirements.

Beef cattle under 18 months of age, unless they are moved interstate for shows, exhibitions, rodeos or recreational events, are exempt from the official identification requirement in this rule. The specific traceability requirements for that group will be addressed in a separate rule. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA), supportive of USDA efforts, commented: “The AVMA applauds Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for developing a new framework for animal disease traceability in the United States that establishes identification and documentation requirements for livestock moving interstate.”