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AMI President and CEO Delivers Remarks During Roundtable Discussion on Animal Identification Hosted by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

(American Meat Institute)

AMI President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle delivered remarks today during a roundtable discussion on animal identification held by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The event is the first in a series of listening sessions aimed at gathering feedback and input that will assist the Secretary in making decisions about the future direction of animal identification and traceability.

During his remarks, Boyle reiterated AMI’s position in support of a mandatory animal identification system and stressed the importance of such a program for animal health reasons.

“An historical review of incidents in other countries and the efforts to address animal disease outbreaks such as BSE and Foot and Mouth Disease, reveals the devastating impact of such outbreaks,” Boyle said. “Livestock producers are negatively impacted, as well as any packing facility where an infectious animal disease diagnosis was identified.  Past incidents in the U.S. meatpacking industry have demonstrated how critical it is to have an effective animal identification system.  The absence of such a system easily could put at risk the very viability of a company in the wrong set of circumstances.  Because of that risk AMI supports a mandatory animal identification system.” 

Boyle also noted the impact a mandatory system would have on the ability for the United States meat industry to enhance international trade competitiveness with other countries such as Canada and Australia, which already have mandatory identification systems in place.

“The United States lags behind a number of other countries with respect to animal identification systems,” Boyle said.  “Legitimate or not, the fact that the U.S. lacks a comprehensive, mandatory animal identification system was an additional obstacle when it came to negotiating the reopening of certain beef export markets, such as Japan and South Korea.  In that regard, although the absence of a mandatory national system may not be a primary stumbling block, its existence would take ‘off the table’ those arguments, as the United States seeks to revise trade agreements in the future in markets that have been reopened in a limited fashion, such as Japan, as well as in markets that have yet to reopen, like China.”

In conclusion, Boyle also emphasized the impact a mandatory system would have on consumer confidence and the integrity of the meat supply.

“It seems beyond dispute that a mandatory animal identification system would provide the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) with better tools to trace livestock and, if such livestock are associated with a food safety incident, even only tangentially, a more rapid response by APHIS and consumer confidence in that response would benefit the entire meat and livestock sector,” Boyle said. 

 Boyle was one of more than 20 representatives from stakeholders that discussed their positions during the three-hour meeting with the Secretary.

In a press released issued following the meeting, Vilsack’s office said a notice will be published in the coming weeks in the Federal Register requesting further input on a national identification system and that as details for the listening tour are finalized, the information will be announced publicly and posted to the APHIS Web site at http://www.meatinstitute.org/ht/action/SpawDispatchAction/empty/www.aphis.usda.gov.

 “I recognize many groups have provided input into the system previously,” said Vilsack in the statement, “but we know more today what kind of system will work, than when the National Identification System (NAIS) was first envisioned. And, I encourage stakeholders--both small and large--to embrace this opportunity to tell us what kind of system they feel would work and to talk about solutions. Over the coming months it will be my goal to personally dialogue with as many as I can--to hear firsthand how we can work together to develop a system that everyone can support.”

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