It struck me this week just how much dichotomy we're seeing in the beef industry over the whole question of national livestock ID. This week, the American Angus Association announced its partnership with Tyson for AngusSource®-tagged cattle and also its partnership with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to help promote premise registration. (See "Angus Makes News With USDA, Tyson & Pfizer" elsewhere in this issue.") This is just one example of how those involved in the value-added, consumer-oriented side of the market are embracing age, source and process verification, along with product traceback and accountability.
At the same time, I received a rash of e-mails from people in my home state of Colorado working to get people to un-register their premises. They're also attempting to get premise registration removed from the state's 4-H program.
It's striking to me just how disparate the two sides' view of the marketplace is. Ironically, the United Kingdom's recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, and the food-safety concerns over various products the last several weeks, seemingly makes a case for national ID.
A recent government report requested by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) was very critical of USDA's implementation of national ID. It urged the agency to get its act together, while advancing mandatory country-of-origin labeling with provisions that would prevent the implementation of mandatory ID.
It seems certain to me that the industry eventually will have to provide traceback capabilities. Despite the fiasco associated with establishing a national ID and traceback system, the only question that remains is one of how the system will look, not whether one will be implemented.
According to USDA, about 410,000 premises have been registered out of roughly 1.4 million in total, and more registrations are taking place at the rate of 1,500 to 2,000/week. While I'm a huge believer in allowing producers to make their own decisions, the reality is that -- when it comes to disease prevention and food safety -- government has and always will play a vital role. I've yet to talk to anyone who actually believes that 10 years from now the industry will not have traceback capabilities. Biosecurity and competitive global pressures will make sure of that.