Although U.S.D.A. has a proposed framework in place to create what most likely would become a national animal identification system, some members of Congress recently wanted to see if maybe there was a better way of approaching such a system. So the House Agriculture Committee invited representatives of the Canadian and Australian governments to testify on how their nations have implemented and are operating national animal I.D. systems. What those officials told Committee members left them impressed. For example, House Ag Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte of Virginia believes the testimony reinforced U.S.D.A.'s position to set up a national animal I.D. system based on a private-public partnership.
GOODLATTE: I think this helped to bolster the decision by Secretary Johanns just recently to set the framework for private entities to begin a voluntary animal identification system.
And ranking Democratic Committee member Colin Peterson of Minnesota agreed with Goodlatte, to a point. He says the Canadian and Australian models for nationwide animal I.D. systems are worthy ones for the U.S. to emulate. But he differs with Goodlatte in that U.S.D.A. has spent millions for a proposed system, but has not even included what he thinks would be a major selling point & real time information access.
PETERSON: That's been one of my big problems with this is that I just don't think it has a lot of credibility unless U.S.D.A. has real time access to this information. These other two countries are doing it, there's no reason why we shouldn't be doing it. But the way they're apparently going to set it up is that if there is a problem, they'll have to call and get permission I guess to get the information.
How to get around that, Peterson says, is make animal I.D. information in databases exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. Now Goodlatte will concur with Peterson that a totally private I.D. system would not be a good idea. But with full implementation and operation of a national animal I.D. system not set until 2009 at the latest by U.S.D.A.'s timeline, Goodlatte says part of what Congress will be doing in the meantime is making sure reluctant producers are participating in such a system.
GOODLATTE: We'd watch it very closely and I feel confident that at some point in the process, we will need to fill in that once this system has proven itself those people who need to be participating in it will be participating in it.