November 22, 2006, by Peter Shinn,
Brownfield Ag News
According to Dow Jones, USDA Under
Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory
Programs Bruce Knight promised Wednesday
to keep the national animal identification
system (NAIS) a permanently voluntary
system. The Dow Jones article said Knight
wants to end debate over whether or not
the NAIS will ever become mandatory,
because that worry is only impeding
progress on implementing a voluntary
The Dow Jones report comes as USDA issued
a 65-guide to the NAIS Wednesday. In an
interview with Brownfield late last month,
Knight also assured producers the NAIS
would remain voluntary.
But USDA may not be the final arbiter of
the status of the NAIS. Incoming House Ag
Committee Chairman Collin Peterson has
said on more than one occasion in recent
weeks that he currently favors a mandatory
approach because USDA has been "screwing
up" implementation of a voluntary system.
That perception may change with Knight,
who got promoted from Chief of the Natural
Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to
the USDA Under Secretary job in August.
Knight drew a shower of praise from both
Democratic and Republican lawmakers during
his confirmation hearing in August for his
management at NRCS of such controversial
and complex programs as the Conservation
Security Program (CSP). And Knight said in
the Brownfield interview earlier this
month that overhauling the NAIS had been
his top priority since he'd been promoted.
But it's worth noting that not all
livestock groups favor a voluntary system.
The National Pork Producers Council, for
example, continues to support, and lobby
for, a mandatory approach. And whether
Congress acts on NAIS or allows USDA to
continue to handle the system using a
completely voluntary approach may well
depend on the success of Knight's efforts.