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Time for a Wyoming plan?

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Casper — As NAIS — the National Animal Identification System — continues to falter, some are asking if it’s time for Wyoming to solidify its own plan.
    Millions of dollars into the program, Congress is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture what they have to show for their expenditures. Congressional amendments threaten the program’s future funding and grassroots opposition may prove insurmountable to the program’s installation. After all, what good is a national identification program if those who own livestock, or even a certain percentage of the animals, refuse to participate?
    Some Wyomingites believe a homegrown approach may allow Wyoming to step into the leadership realm, setting the parameters by which such a program would operate in the state. It may be a chance to overcome primary producer concerns, such as the security of personal data.
    “Nobody likes NAIS,” says Wyoming Livestock Board Member and Gillette veterinarian Eric Barlow. Of the seven-member Livestock Board, Barlow says he’s seen general agreement on opposition to the federal program. He believes a solution may be within reach and free of the national databases, rules and cumbersome implementation many fear could accompany NAIS.
    “There are multiple identification requirements we as producers already have to comply with for regulatory diseases like brucellosis, trichomoniasis and scrapie,” says Barlow. “All of them have identification requirements that are age dependent and triggered by such things as shipment of animals.” Furthermore, Barlow says state-level rules are already in place for many of the programs.
    “How do have a meaningful system with what we have?” asks Barlow of programs that he believes could be layered on top of the existing brand program. By combining the programs into a single source of information he wonders if the end result would be a fairly comprehensive ability to trace and locate animals. The federal government has stated the primary goal of NAIS as 48-hour traceback.
    Barlow says, “This should be about marketability of our livestock and providing assurances to our trading partners, not a federal program requirement. If there is a disease issue, we can effectively and efficiently address it.”
    Construction of a Wyoming based plan isn’t a new concept, but builds on two listening sessions and a survey the Livestock Board conducted about a year ago. Progress on the effort languished as more pressing topics, such as negotiations and rules surrounding brucellosis, consumed the agency’s time. As the federal government wrestles with the future of NAIS, the coming months may provide a window of opportunity through which Wyoming can move forward.
    Members of the Livestock Board are hosting a public listening session on Aug. 12 from 8:30 a.m. to noon. During that time members of the public will be asked their opinions on the future of animal identification in the state. On a related note, there will also be discussions on the agency’s brand inspection and recording programs. Barlow will serve as moderator for the morning conference.
    Producers attending the gathering will also have the opportunity to comment on the Livestock Board’s Chapter 6 rules creating a brucellosis risk mitigation program and the Chapter 8 rules pertaining to the importation of livestock to Wyoming. Animal welfare, slated to be a topic at the 2010 session of the Wyoming Legislature, will also be discussed. Trichomoniasis, tuberculosis and brucellosis are specific diseases that will be discussed at the meeting to take place in the easternmost meeting room at McKibben Cafeteria on the Wyoming State Fairgrounds.
    Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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