A series of listening sessions on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) will take place over the next few weeks, hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

“USDA needs to hear directly from our stakeholders as we work together to create an animal disease traceability program we can all support,” says Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “I encourage individuals and organizations to voice their concerns, ideas and potential solutions about animal identification, by either attending these listening sessions or submitting their comments online.”

The listening sessions are designed to capture producer comments and concerns, as well as create solutions producers are comfortable with.

Major questions to be resolved include whether the program should be mandatory or voluntary, who should control the data and who should pay for the program.

So far 510,000 premises have been registered out of a potential 1.4 million that USDA wants to sign up.

The public meetings are slated for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time, with registration one hour prior to each meeting, at these locations:

--May 14 at Harrisburg, PA;

--May 18 at Pasco, WA;

--May 20 at Austin, TX;

--May 21 at Birmingham, AL;

--May 22 at Louisville, KY;

--May 27 at Storrs, CT; and

--June 1 at Loveland, CO.

More details on the meetings can be found at USDA.

In 2004, APHIS began work on NAIS, an animal traceability system to enable producers and animal health officials to respond quickly to animal disease concerns in the United States.

NAIS is comprised of three parts: premises registration, animal identification and animal movement tracing. USDA’s current focus is on premises registration.