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From: TSS ()
Date: April 6, 2006 at 6:03 pm PST



Release No. 0121.06
Office of Communication (202)720-4623

Printable version
Transcript of Tele-News Conference with Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns And Dr. John Clifford, USDA's Chief Veterinarian Regarding the National Animal Identification System Washington, D.C. - April 6, 2006

MODERATOR: Good afternoon from Washington. I'm Larry Quinn speaking to you from the Broadcast Center at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Welcome to today's news conference with Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns to discuss the National Animal Identification System plan. With the Secretary today is Dr. John Clifford, USDA's chief veterinarian with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

During our question period if you'd like to ask a question, please press *1 on your telephone touchpad.

Now it's my pleasure to introduce to you Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns.

SEC. JOHANNS: Well, thank you very much. And good afternoon everyone, and thank you for joining me today. We are going to do an update on the development of the National Animal Identification System. I am very pleased to make public today what we would refer to as our implementation plan and several other documents that will take us into the next phase of development.

A National Animal ID system will dramatically improve our ability to respond to animal disease outbreaks. During the contagious disease outbreak, time is actually the enemy. The more time it takes to track an animal, the more animals are exposed, the more premises become involved, and the more money it costs to contain the disease. An animal ID system will help animal health officials identify the birthplace of a diseased animal and shorten the time required to trace the animal's history to identify other potentially exposed animals.

A long-term goal is to be able to identify all animals and premises that have had direct contact with the disease of concern within 48 hours of discovery.

As many are aware, this system will also help the U.S. livestock industry to remain competitive. Traceability is being used as a marketing tool by several countries. For example, Australia is aggressively marketing animal traceability to gain a competitive advantage over us. We know how important the export market is to livestock producers, and we want to retain our competitiveness in the international arena.

Developing an effective animal identification system has been a priority for the USDA. Several months ago I outlined four guiding principals for our system. To summarize and to refresh, first it must not unnecessarily burden producers. Second, it must not unduly increase the size of government. Third, it must be flexible enough to interface with a variety of technologies and fourth, animal movement data should be privately maintained.

I'm pleased to report that the plan we are releasing today upholds these principles.

Throughout this process we've engaged in extensive dialogue with producers and industry organizations across the country to gauge their views on animal identification. We held a series of listening sessions across the country in 2004, and we published a thinking paper for public comment in May of 2005. And most recently we sponsored a stakeholder meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, in November of 2005. I want to thank producers for being engaged and for being candid. We will have a better system as a result.

All of the producer input and feedback has helped us to strengthen our plan and increase stakeholder support of a U.S. Animal Identification System. I also want to emphasize that we look forward to continuing to work with producers to seek input about how best to achieve our goals.

USDA believes that it is critically important to develop the right framework for the system to facilitate successful implementation and wide-scale support.

Now let me update you on the recent progress that we have made. Our most anticipated accomplishment is the incorporation of the producer input we've received into the implementation plan that we are releasing and posting on our website today. This new plan outlines timelines and benchmarks for the implementation of the system. It also sets an aggressive timeline for establishing a fully operational system by early 2007 and achieving full participation by 2009.

The plan is one of four new documents posted on our website today. Also now available is a document that outlines the general technical standards that must be met by a private animal tracking database to achieve integration into the national system. The third document is an application that private database owners can fill out to have their systems evaluated for compatibility. The fourth and final new document is a draft cooperative agreement between the USDA and qualified database owners, which is also available on our website.

As private databases are evaluated, we intend to continue our dialog with producers. We welcome feedback from database owners as we establish the final technical requirements for databases. By June we will begin entering into cooperative agreements with organizations that have databases that meet our requirements.

By early next year we will have the technology in place that will allow state and federal animal health officials to query the private databases during a disease investigation for information about animals of interest. We call it the Animal Trace Processing System, more commonly known as the Meta Data System. The private animal tracking databases will record and store animal movement tracking information for livestock. Put simply, they will own the information, and state and federal animal health officials will be able to query it when it is necessary.

We are also in the process of finalizing awards totaling $3 million to a number of states and tribes for field trials. The purpose of these trials is to analyze the identification information being collected and evaluate new technologies for identification and automated data collection. We will also fund other projects including an analysis of the cost of implementation within a state, the development of procedures to measure the performance of identification devices, and thirdly a bi-state study to develop recommendations regarding livestock exhibitions to achieve compatibility with the national system.

USDA awarded about $27 million in funds to states and tribes to advance the National Animal Identification Initiative. This funding has been used primarily for premise identification and registration. I have asked for an updated report detailing the accomplishments resulting from these previously funded field trials and pilot projects. The report I might add will also be posted on our website.

Lastly, I would like to announce two web conferences for organizers interested in serving as animal identification tag managers and resellers and for those interested in distributing tags to producers. The conferences are scheduled for April 13 and 26. They will provide an opportunity for interested organizations to learn about the planned distribution of official identification devices under the National ID System and to watch a demonstration of the animal identification management system.

Complete details on how to participate in those web conferences are available on our website. Again, you can now find the updated National Animal Identification System implementation plan, the general technical requirements, the application for database evaluation, the draft cooperative agreement, and information on the AIN web training sessions on our website.

With that, I would be happy to take your questions.

MODERATOR: Reporters, this reminder, if you'd like to ask a question please press *1 on your touchpad. And we're beginning with Matt Kaye of the Burns Bureau. Matt, go ahead, please.

REPORTER: Yes. Thank you so much, and thank you, Mr. Secretary, for taking my questions. A couple of questions here. One is, your target date is still 2009, which you label is an aggressive timetable for ensuring full implementation. Are we talking about mandatory participation now as opposed to voluntary participation?

And secondly, are you comfortable with how rapidly the timetable is moving considering that some of our trading partners like Korea are intent on getting this information even more quickly than we have it available such as the birth date of the BSE-infected animal in Alabama?

And just lastly, the cost to producers, I know that Keith Collins has spoken about some of the cost, but do we know just how much in total it's going to cost private industry and how much of the total cost will be shared by private industry?

SEC. JOHANNS: Well, I can start with your question about timing and how we are feeling in terms of getting this up and running. First thing I would say is that to describe this as a massive project is to under-describe how big this is and how significant it is and how much is involved.

I'll just take one industry, the cattle industry. At any given time you have 90 to 100 million head of cattle in the United States. There has never been a system put in place that would deal with that kind of magnitude. And we are talking about a system that literally says from the time of their birth on through the entire chain, we will trace that animal until we can ascertain where the animal finally was processed. So just a huge undertaking.

When you consider all of that, the schedule that we have laid out is a very ambitious schedule. The other thing that I would point out and I feel very strongly about this, we are asking the industry not just cattle but in other areas to really change how they look at things, to really change how they're going to manage right down to individual herds through sale barns, through processing plants, through transactions from ranch to fat cattle guy, and all of the other species we have out there. And they just need some time to understand the system, what we're proposing, how we're going to work with them. And again, that takes some time.

If we can improve on this time schedule, needless to say everyone would support that, and I would too. There's nothing in the schedule that says we can't improve upon it. There's nothing in the schedule that says if it goes faster than we anticipated that that will be a good thing. We would love to see that happen.

But I think this schedule is very ambitious, and it gets the job done.

In terms of our trading partners, I just think it's one of the reasons why we're moving in this direction. You definitely have trading partners who started this ahead of us, and they're going to do everything they can to market that advantage as long as they have that advantage. That's a piece of it.

In terms of cost, we have put many millions of dollars into the system, so you can see right from today that because of our investment this has truly been a federal, state and tribal partnership. In addition to that, this president's been very supportive, so we continue to have funding in budgets to do the things that we think are necessary to move this forward.

MODERATOR: Our next question will come from Chuck Abbott of Reuters. And standing by should be Ian Bell. Chuck, go ahead.

REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. The obvious question that comes to mind is that USDA is already behind the schedule on some of its goals on implementing animal identification. For instance, premises ID started a year later than USDA first said it would. Release of the 15 digit numbers for animals is six months behind when USDA said things would happen. How in the world is USDA going to make this come, bring this in on time considering you're behind schedule already?

SEC. JOHANNS: Chuck, I'd probably debate that issue of being behind schedule. The most important thing that we can do, I believe, in order for this to be successful is to work with the various elements of this industry to make sure that we're moving it in a way that recognizes the very, very large change that is occurring here. At various times whether it was numbering or premises ID, if states needed additional time the tendency has been to say let's try to figure out a way to work with them on that.

The worst service we could provide would be to turn loose a system that says we're not going to have any flexibility, it's going to be the Washington way or it's going to be the high way. I can almost guarantee that that would bring this system to failure. And so as we have worked through this, we stayed focused on our overall goal, and that goal is to have this up and running within the dates we have said, have animals registered, keeping our focus on those ultimate timelines but again our whole effort here has been to help the industry and the states and the tribes work through this and get it up and running so we do it right and hopefully do it right the first time.

MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Ian Bell of Western Producer Newspapers. Standing by is Jackie Fatka. Ian?

REPORTER: Hello, Mr. Secretary. Thanks for your time today. I'm calling from Western Canada. I just wanted to find out in developing this national ID program for livestock whether you've looked at what some of your trading partners did on similar efforts yet to see what they did well and where some of the mistakes were made and how that could be applied to what you're developing there in the U.S.?

SEC. JOHANNS: We have. In fact I have not been to Canada to look at your system, but I have been to Australia. And we actually got a demonstration on their system and how it's working. Again there are differences because the size of our herd is larger by a lot.

So that adds some complexity in terms of what we are doing, but yes, our hope is that some of the speed bumps that folks ran into we can smooth out in what we are doing and do our process in a way where hopefully we're not repeating the same mistakes.

MODERATOR: Jackie Fatka of Farm Futures Magazine is next, followed by Daniel Goldstein. Jackie?

REPORTER: Hello. Thanks for taking my call. Last week NCBA president even said that producer adoption is pretty slow for the premise identification. What is your view on what is out there available to producers right now, if they are accepting it? And what needs to be done to maybe get producers to begin on this timeline that you're proposing today?

SEC. JOHANNS: Okay. In terms of premises, we now have 235,000 premises that are registered. We have all of the states up and running, and so that's part of the system is there and is available.

Generally I think there's been good acceptance, certainly very mindful of the debate in some parts of the industry saying well we don't like this idea and this and that. Here's a couple of thoughts that I would offer. Change is always difficult, and that's why in reference to Chuck's question, you know one of the things I emphasize over and over again we need to make sure that we're working with the various parts of this industry to bring this change along and be very mindful of what people are telling us and listening to them. And we in Washington need to also be ready from time to time to take a new look at issues. And that's what we've been trying to do as we have developed this system.

The other thing I will offer is this. I really do see the world heading in this direction. I think if you want to compete in the international marketplace you can see what's happening already. It is questions along the line of, gosh, isn't the U.S. behind because Australia already has a good system in place, and Canada and whoever else? And so we have to stay focused on getting this done.

The other thing I will offer is, that I just think as retailers who now operate in many parts of the world start working with ID systems from other countries they're going to have a greater and greater interest in advancing ID systems in their retail businesses here in the United States and in the beef that they export out of the United States.

I share all that with you because I believe that is the catalyst for ranchers, for again for fat cattle people, for sale barns, for producers, for whoever, to recognize that the time for this has really arrived. And the more we delay the more we run into that constant questioning of, aren't you behind your competitors? We just really can't afford that to happen for long.

MODERATOR: Daniel Goldstein of Bloomberg has the next question, followed by Chris Clayton. Daniel?

REPORTER: Thank you, Secretary, for taking my call. Just in line with what Chuck was saying, is your predecessor, Secretary Veneman, had looked at perhaps getting the system begun, some cattle enrolled and some ranches enrolled by the end of 2004. So it seems to be we are somewhat behind in that. I'd like to find out how do you think we can make up some time? And then more worrisome I would suppose is that do you think trading partners like Japan and Korea, does this give them yet another reason to hold off on opening trade until say the system is fully up and running, perhaps as late as 2009?

SEC. JOHANNS: How can we make a time? If you look at the schedule that we published today I think you will see that at least the timelines that I've been talking about are the timelines that we are working with in terms of reaching the ultimate goal of getting not only premises but animals registered. So we continue to be focused on that and continue to be very determined to put the system in place that allows producers to get up, register, and get on line if you will with the system.

In terms of trading partners, I don't believe you're going to run into that issue today. I don't believe you're going to have a country say to another country, we have to have identification by the end of the week or we don't open up to trade. I won't make that guarantee five years from now just simply because I do think you're going to see more and more countries go in this direction. Certainly our efforts in this area have gotten other countries to pay attention. The efforts of Australia and Canada and others certainly has got other countries paying attention.

So I don't think it's a today problem, but again I just think as time goes on here this is going to become more and more common across the world. I don't think we can afford to wait and see what they do. It really is time to start moving to put this in place.

MODERATOR: Chris Clayton of DTN is next, followed by Catherine Reichert. Chris?

REPORTER: Thanks for taking questions, Secretary. I was looking on your schedule, and you have on January 2009 100 percent of premises registered and 100 percent of new animals registered. Will that though basically require USDA to begin drafting a rule for a mandatory requirement? And there's been talk, does USDA actually have the authority to actually make such a rule to require people to register their premises and register their animals?

SEC. JOHANNS: The answer to your question is yes. We can go in that direction. One of the things that I would point you to however is that in this system which is voluntary today we have benchmarks. That's part of what we're putting out there today, and our goal is to continue to watch those benchmarks and to see how we're doing.

Needless to say, my hope is that the industry sees the value of the system and we continue to not only register premises but register animals within the benchmarks that have been put out there.

I've said this many times, and I think it's true. It's a hard point to debate. And that is that if you get out there and you have 50 percent of your herd that's registered, 50 percent that's not registered, you don't really have an effective system. You have to be constantly hoping that if there's a disease outbreak, Heaven forbid, that the disease outbreak occurs in the 50 percent that are registered. And that's not a system. It is not a workable system. But I think producers are very sophisticated. I think they understand that, and my hope is that they will embrace what we are offering, which is a voluntary approach. We want to work with them, we want to make sure we get this right as they do.

But there is a point at which you have to look at it and see are you hitting your benchmarks, are you making that progress, and if not then what's the next step? Is it a mandatory system? It just really depends on how well things go from here in terms of the benchmarks.

MODERATOR: Catherine Reichert of Congressional Quarterly is next, followed by Wes Ishmael. Catherine?

REPORTER: Believe it or not, all the questions I had have been asked and answered. But let me just make a clarifying point here. If you wanted to make this program mandatory, is this something you could do through the rulemaking process within USDA, or would you actually need Congress to put out some new legislation?

SEC. JOHANNS: We would not. We can do that today. We would not need new legislation.

REPORTER: Okay. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Wes Ishmael of Beef Magazine is next, followed by Libby Quaid. Wes?

REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I was just curious, and maybe this is in the implementation plan and I've not had a chance to look at that, but is there a particular level of industry participation that's going to be required by early in 2009 to prevent the program from becoming mandatory? In other words, is there a benchmark there that says if we hit this level of participation it will remain voluntary?

SEC. JOHANNS: I'll ask Dr. Clifford to address that. Doctor?

DR. CLIFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Actually we've set, as the Secretary had indicated, aggressive benchmarks. And I think it's monitoring those benchmarks over time and see if we're very close to those benchmarks before we evaluate or decide whether other actions are necessary.

For January 2009 we're talking about having 100 percent of all premises registered, 100 percent of all new animals identified. That's basically animals that have been recently born that would be moving in commerce.

Also 60 percent of animals less than a year of age have complete movement data on them in the system. So also part of this aggressive action we're developing a very important outreach program. It's called an Ambassador Outreach Program, that we'll be reaching out to industry sectors as well as states for others to help us and encourage producers to participate in this program.

MODERATOR: Our next question is from Libby Quaid of Associated Press followed by Sally Schuff. Libby?

REPORTER: Hi, Mr. Secretary. Last year you indicated or at least many of us thought you were indicating at first that a single industry group could wind up running the program. Many people including folks with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association thought it would be NCBA but then throughout the year you and other officials began talking about this Meta Data approach and saying that many different groups could run the system.

Could you talk about if there was a shift what the reason for that was? Or clarify maybe that isn't what you meant?

SEC. JOHANNS: No, Libby. Here's the situation. I always anticipated that the private sector would be involved in the database and literally the actual registration of the animals. You know there was a point at which anyone could have asked the question, well how many will be out there? Will it be one, will it be two, could an individual state do an approach that would work? My attitude has been that it is the private sector that is going to spur the invention and innovation in this area. It is the price competition which I've mentioned on many occasions that would occur in the private sector that I found most attractive in approaching this from the standpoint of this really should be a private sector enterprise.

Then that raised the issue, well if there are a number of entities -- and I would expect that there will be -- how do we access that information? If we're going to end up with a situation where you could have not just a handful but a number of companies, maybe there's a state out there that wants to do a system, how can we at the USDA interface with those systems to make sure that we can access the information we need when we need it for traceability?

And that's when we talked about the Meta Data System which basically serves as a portal if you will that allows us to access that information if there's a disease outbreak -- some need, in other words, for us to get into that system.

The other thing I will tell you is this. When we released the thinking paper we were very, very specific about saying, hey folks, this is a thinking paper, we're trying to think out loud here about this system. But what we really want to encourage is feedback from you. What do you think? What's on your mind? How best to approach that? And I can tell you, Libby, that pretty clearly as I would be out speaking to groups we heard pretty clearly hear at the USDA when people talked to us here they just weren't very comfortable with one system.

And one system does create that issue of whether the USDA has in effect blessed a monopoly. And then it raises the issue of, well if you have one system where's the price competition come from? And if you don't have price competition, where's the innovation going to come from? And so all of those things we tried to think about in response to the paper we put out there.

But again, Libby, the thing I would remind everybody of and during that news conference we talked about that being a thinking paper. We were trying to think out loud, and we were trying to encourage all parts of the industry to tell us what their response was to that thinking out loud process. And this is what we've heard.

So we've tried to respond to those issues in what we're talking about today and in the Meta Data system.

MODERATOR: Next question comes from Sally Schuff of Feedstuff, followed by Sara Wyatt. Sally?

REPORTER: Yes. Mr. Secretary, thank you. This is Sally Schuff at Feedstuff. My question is, one of the continuing comments that has come from people that have responded to the thinking paper and at the public meetings, has been who bears the cost of this system? For instance, for a rancher in Western Nebraska who has 400 cows, can you explain who will pay the cost of the tags and the data collection, and how will that go?

SEC. JOHANNS: Well, Sally, as you know the United States government through its Treasury has invested a rather substantial amount of money into the system. We've delivered grants to states, we've worked to try to assist them in their premises. We continue to provide funding. And in fact today I talked about some funding that we're putting out there. And I would have to anticipate that that will continue.

To date I believe if you would check the numbers we've invested about $84 million into the system to assist in getting it up and running and again to assist states out there and tribes in terms of them being able to bring their system up and going.

There's also going to be a private piece to this. No doubt about it. There will be companies out there. Today we don't know how many those will be, but we've had companies talk to us after we published our thinking paper saying, gosh, we've got a great system. As I've been up on the Hill I've had people on the Hill, senators and House members, saying gosh, I've got this company in my state, they're developing a system I'm pretty excited about; if you're ever in the state you should stop by and see what they've got going.

And so there's likely to be costs there for producers as they sign up, get that ear tag and have that animal ready for identification.

So what I can say to you, Sally, is that what I see here is it is a joint effort. Like I said, our President's been very supportive. He's put money in his budget submissions. We've appreciated that. A lot of that money has gone out to states to help them. But you are also going to have companies out there or maybe even states or maybe associations who put a system in place and will market that system and make it available to producers.

MODERATOR: Next question is from Sara Wyatt of AgriPulse, and she'll be followed by Philip Brasher. Sara?

REPORTER: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. As you mentioned, there's only about 235,000 premises registered thus far. But within that number can you tell us which states or sectors seem to be very ahead of the game and what characteristics are in place in those states or regions or industry sectors such as has it been the money that you've sent to that area? has it been because there's a retailer demanding it, or a local leadership? What kinds of factors are in place that have put some more ahead of others in terms of premises ID?

SEC. JOHANNS: I'm going to ask Dr. Clifford again if he could offer some thoughts on that. Doctor?

DR. CLIFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Yes. I mean there's a number of states that have been very aggressive in their approach to implementation of premises registration. Wisconsin is one of those states as well as the state of Texas. And there's a number of states throughout the U.S. that have been aggressive with that. And I think the reason they've just been very active; they formed a unified approach in those states with the industry and have taken a very aggressive approach to get premises registered in those states.

MODERATOR: Next question is from Philip Brasher of Des Moines Register. And he'll be followed by Tam Moore. Philip?

REPORTER: Yes, Mr. Secretary. Following up on that, I believe some of those states have actually made premise registration mandatory, which would suggest the mandatory approach may be necessary. A couple other questions. It seems like at one point in your benchmarks, I believe you're trying to have 40 percent by 2008, and then you mentioned 2009. At what point in those benchmarks will you make a decision about whether to make this mandatory? Two, it would appear that you're basically putting this off until the next administration because obviously you won't be in office in 2009.

SECRETARY JOHANNS: Well, Phil, I might debate that with you a little bit. Gee. No. In all seriousness and staying away from the political aspect, this is an industry that I have a lot of familiarity with. Not only grew up in your state in Northern Iowa, grew up around cattle, but I was the governor of the next state over, the state of Nebraska, where we had a very active fat cattle industry, we had a very active cow-calf industry. And I can tell you that this is a big change.

I, as governor, probably had one of the first conferences in a state relative to animal identification, and that occurred as a result of a trade mission that I did with a bunch of cattle folks to another country. And I came back convinced that we needed to move our state forward relative to animal identification.

My point is this, and I think I've made it before. It isn't timing relative to administration; it isn't timing relative to politics. It's timing relative to a very, very huge undertaking. I said recently that nothing this big has been undertaken anywhere in the world, and we're going to do everything we can to work with this industry because it is a great industry-- whether you're talking about pork or beef or whatever, and we want to make sure that we get this done right and do it in a very systematic way.

That's why we started out with the thinking paper. That's why we said, here's some of our thoughts, give us your feedback. That's why we took some time at that stage to hear from people, and that's what we're going to continue to do.

In terms of our benchmarks, as we hit those benchmarks we'll evaluate how we're doing and that will really be what drives our next decision as to when and if we need to look at an approach that is the mandatory approach. Again, my hope is that the industry responds to see the competitive issues involved here, they see other countries are moving in this direction.

I think you're going to have retailers out there raising the issue of, is this something I need in the United States because when I'm in another part of the world we're able to buy beef from animals that are identified and traced, and I really do think this is going to move in a direction where the industry is really going to want this to happen. That's what we're seeing at least.

Needless to say there will be some debate about whether it should occur. Nothing is 100 percent. But if there's any criticism we've heard today is, gosh we have to stay the course here and get this done.

MODERATOR: Tam Moore of Capital Press is next followed by Stewart Doan. Tam?

REPORTER: Thank you. This question primarily for Dr. Clifford. Let's talk about species priority. We know because we have a scrapie program that practically every sheep at least that turns up at a 4-H fair is registered and we know the press is on to deal with the cattle. How about pork and can you tell anything to the distraught people that own llamas for pleasure and wonder if you're going to force a chip in the back of their animals?

DR. CLIFFORD: In regards to the species, we actually have a number of species working groups that provide feedback and input to the National Animal Identification Subcommittee that reports to the Secretary's Advisory Committee for Foreign Animal and Poultry Diseases. And these subcommittees basically, there's a number of those that are formed. There's one for cattle and bison, for swine, for sheep and goats, for horses, for poultry, as well as deer and elk and also for llamas and alpacas.

As you'd indicated, our primary focus right now is on cattle. But all species we encourage them to go ahead and provide that feedback on how this program can best work and operate within their own marketing systems, and we'll be listening to that input and feedback through the Secretary's Advisory Committee.

SEC. JOHANNS: If I might add to that, we do have a lot of working groups that are giving us very good advice. We do tend to talk a lot about cattle industry and for that matter the swine industry too because they've been proactive. They've been out there working and talking to their producers.

And here's another important point. How we approach this with cattle, it may be somewhat different with swine, it may be somewhat different with poultry, and the whole goal behind the working groups again is to give us their best advice as to how to deal with that industry in terms of a system that works.

Again what may work just great for cattle may not be the right system for poultry. And we are mindful of that, and working with the industry to get their best advice.

MODERATOR: And our final question today comes from Stewart Doan of Clear Channel Ag Network. Stewart?

REPORTER: Thank you, Larry. And good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. You indicated that more 235,000 premises have been registered to date. I'm wondering what percentage of total livestock premises nationwide that figure represents, and how that 235,000 number meshes with your expectations where you thought you would be at this point in time. Thank you.

SEC. JOHANNS: I'll let Dr. Clifford take the first part of that.

DR. CLIFFORD: The number is over 10 percent of what the estimated premises in the U.S. -- we estimate the number of premises in the U.S. to be about 2 million.

SEC. JOHANNS: What I would offer on that, some might look at that number and say gosh, 10 percent registered, that means 90 percent not registered, are you really getting the job done here?

What I would offer is, this is 10 percent that registered as we are literally continuing to develop the system. This is 10 percent that registered when what we had out there was a thinking paper. And we were encouraging people to respond to that thinking paper.

So you can see that there is good support here.

Now as the system now starts to go from a thinking paper to greater specificity and cooperative agreement and application and specifications and systems that literally are going to be up and running, we hope to see those numbers continue.

But that's one of the reasons why we put the benchmarks out there. We wanted to publish far and wide to people who are interested, this is what we believe the benchmarks should be. This is what we hope to accomplish. We'll work with you. But we're going to be checking up and seeing how we're all doing, and these will be the benchmarks we use.

MODERATOR: Reporters, thank you for your questions, for being with us today. Any final thoughts, Mr. Secretary?

SEC. JOHANNS: Well, I just appreciate everybody's participation. It was now some months ago that I came and started talking about animal identification in terms of a document that we described as a thinking paper. We encouraged people to interface with us, offer their thoughts, and they did. And we appreciate this immensely.

This is a major change. When you identify all of the industries that are impacted by this change, it really is going to take a cooperative effort. It is going to be an effort that works right down to the ranches of America and cattle lots and the sale barns and the poultry houses, and I could go on and on.

This needs to be an effort where we are working together, where we're listening to each other and moving forward and have animal ID in place.

With that, thank you for joining us today.

MODERATOR: Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns. I'm Larry Quinn bidding you a good afternoon from Washington.
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Last Modified: 04/06/2006!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=2006/04/0121.xml

Despite Third Mad Cow, Administration Promises Still Unkept

Animal ID System, Cattle Feed Rules Long Overdue, but Stalled by Industry Influence, Says CSPI


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