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 Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California February 8, 2006 Vol. 33, No. 13 Page A12, column 1

Beef industry backs ID system
followed by 700 tons of beef goes to Japan

“NAIS is not law yet,” said Jack Cowley. 

By Liz Bowen Pioneer Press Assistant Editor, Fort Jones, California,

SISKIYOU COUNTY, California – Global disease and worldwide economics are driving the National Animal Identification System, according to cattlemen.

At the U.S. level, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has already set up a database using non-profit organizations that will protect confidentiality.

The database was officially unveiled on Jan. 10, 2006 as the United States Animal Identification Organization. The task: To manage the industry-led animal movement database and to work with every segment of animal industry and animal health authorities to provide an effective, efficient and inexpensive database.

Creating a national identification system for livestock has always been controversial. As the U.S. government released its proposed rules through the Federal Register on the NAIS, short for National Animal Identification System, that controversy has continued and grown, especially with owners of small livestock or small amounts of livestock.

The beef industry knows it is dealing with a can of worms. But a worldwide market is making demands.

First, owners of all livestock need to know that the “NAIS is not law yet,” said Jack Cowley, a Siskiyou County rancher and board member of the National Beef Check-off, which is part of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).

The new data base that was instituted on Jan. 10 is private and USDA will only have access to the information in the event of a disease outbreak.

“NCBA is actively working to keep it private,” said Cowley, adding, “This is driven by the beef health issue.”

Although scares of BSE have hit throughout the world, the United States has taken progressive steps during the past 15 years to keep U.S. beef safe from BSE and other disease outbreaks. The majority of U.S. cattlemen are family ranchers. They raise beef that is served on tables around the world and in their own kitchens.

Back in the 1930s, the USDA tested all cow herds to eradicate tuberculosis and foot and mouth disease – and was successful. But outbreaks are still a threat. Just last week, tuberculosis (TB) was found in five herds in Minnesota, lowering its designation of TB-free by the USDA. A further 65 herds were quarantined with 40 released after being tested as free from TB.

Food safety is a priority for national and state cattlemen’s organizations.

Cowley said that the NCBA makes no bones about the fact that it is pushing for voluntary sign-ups by cattlemen to the identification system. And so far, no specific type of identification like a microchip has been chosen as the method to use.

Some markets are already paying a premium of a few more cents per pound, if the rancher and packer can trace where the cattle have been. The first sign-ups are to register the property, where the cattle are born and raised.

Many ranchers, like Cowley, already keep track of individual animals through bloodlines, breeding, calving, vaccinating and weaning records – usually through a computer program. Right after birth, all calves receive a large plastic ear tag with a number. When cattle are sold, the buyer-feedlot owner continues with the record keeping.

Recording all events in the calf’s life in this way is currently sufficient for the private program, said Cowley.

Another local rancher doesn’t use a computer. His process is more old-fashioned. Only a journal and pen are needed. The cows and calves are recorded as a “calving bunch,” which provides the date of birth of the calves within a 60-day window. As the calving bunch is moved to another field and the calves weaned that information is also recorded.

This rancher says the NAIS must be utilized to compete with Japanese and other foreign markets, because other countries are already using a mandatory ID system on livestock. But he adds that his old-fashioned method is readily accepted, if the USDA were to audit his tracking system. This rancher also brands his cattle providing a permanent ID.

Back on Aug. 30, 2005, USDA Secretary, Mike Johanns, said he supported development of an animal movement database, which would be controlled within the private sector.

In the Federal Register that will finalize USDA rules of NAIS in July 2006, it is the word of “mandatory” that is causing the biggest ruckus. No ID system is mandatory at the present time, but it has been proposed as mandatory for all livestock and premises of where the livestock are raised.

NCBA officers say the goal is to insure that technology created and utilized does not erase confidential business information protections that have been in place for decades.
A sidebar article to “Beef industry backs ID system” from Pioneer Press, February 8, 2006

700 tons of beef goes to Japan


By Liz Bowen, Pioneer Press Assistant Editor, Fort Jones, California


USA - On Dec. 12, 2005, the long-awaited reopening of beef trade with Japan was cautiously opened. Back in December 2003, a Canadian-raised cow found to have BSE, when slaughtered in the U.S. closed many borders to foreign trade.

For two years, the USDA has worked to re-establish the Asian market. Japanese agricultural inspectors arrived in the U.S. and inspected U.S. packing facilities.

When trade opened six-weeks ago, packers were ready. More than 1,500 tons of U.S. beef then entered Japan, with more than 700 tons distributed to supermarkets, restaurants and other outlets. That beef was declared safe for consumption by Japanese authorities.

Then in mid-January, Japan re-imposed its beef trade restrictions, because some veal shipped from New York to Tokyo was found to have spinal material – small bones.

By then another 2,000 tons had been sent to warehouses in Japan, but customs will not allow it into the country. It was reported last week that Japanese importers are attempting to convince U.S. suppliers to take the beef back before it goes bad.

During the initial ban at the end of 2003, most beef was returned to the U.S., although some was destroyed at the importer’s expense.

Many U.S. cattlemen are optimistic that the market will open again, but Japanese officials have called for an extensive investigation. Currently, only 10 facilities have the thumbs-up from Japan’s department of agriculture.

On a good note for the industry, Taiwan reopened trade for U.S. beef last week. U.S. Congressman Wally Herger (California-Dist. 2) praised the decision, saying that Northern California ranchers grow the “safest and best tasking beef in the world.”

Another small victory was announced last week, when Mexico agreed to accept bone-in beef from the U.S. The beef must come from cattle that were younger than 30-months of age. Before 2003, when the border was closed to all beef, bone-in beef accounted for $40 million of the $874 worth of beef shipped to Mexico.

On another note, negotiations for a free-trade agreement with South Korea could include bone-in beef, which had been banned. South Korea is the fifth largest export market for the U.S. agricultural products.

When learning of the negotiations, the National Pork Producers Council was pleased, noting that while pork exports to South Korea have grown dramatically by 492 percent since 1995, there is still plenty of room to grow in a country where pork accounts for 44 percent of daily protein intake.

But U.S. officials have noted that South Korea recently signed a free-trade agreement with Chile, one of the United States major competitors in the global pork market, which will give Chilean pork duty-free access to the market by 2014.






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