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Agricultural News

Roadmap to Disease Traceback System Takes Shape, But Many Devilish Details Still Left to Iron Out

Thu, 14 Feb 2019 12:44:17 CST

Roadmap to Disease Traceback System Takes Shape, But Many Devilish Details Still Left to Iron Out In a recent interview with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays, Dr. Jessica Watson, associate director for animal health policy for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, offered some insight into the industry’s call to look seriously at implementing an animal disease traceback system. According to Watson, NCBA just updated its policy to reflect members’ desire for an enhanced system of traceability that accommodates all classes of cattle, not just older cattle as existing systems operate. To accomplish this, though, Watson says it would take some fairly significant federal action. Of course, this prospect still comes with many differing opinions.

“If we were to expand the cattle that are used specifically as feeder cattle - that would require a rule change that USDA would have to then submit through the federal register,” Watson said. “I think there are different areas of the country that have different opinions on that issue. So, I think it’s going to be interesting moving forward to see how that progresses.”

Already, there are three pilot programs underway in Kansas, Texas and Florida that Watson says will be key in the decision-making process ahead as it begins to indicate the feasibility of such a program actually being implemented. New technologies though, will certainly help streamline this process when and if a system is ever established. Blockchain, an emerging digital information sharing platform, is one in particular Watson identifies as a lynchpin in the infrastructure that would allow the entire beef supply chain to effectively communicate from producer to packer - a critical piece of the puzzle. While that will certainly be something looked at in the future, Watson says for the moment the industry is attempting not to get ahead of itself, taking one step at a time as they continue to iron out the details of how this program might work in a way that everyone can agree upon.

“That is something to keep an eye on in the future and something I think a lot of folks want to keep the door open to - But, I think we may be looking more at these high-frequency tags or even Bluetooth. Due to cost… I think those are further down the line,” she said, before addressing producers’ privacy concerns related to this system. “We’ve updated our policy to protect the liability of producers after cattle have left the ranch. We want to protect producers and their confidentiality - so I think we’re moving toward a private database that would allow producers to have technology only they can access and in the event of a disease outbreak, they would be able to give permissions for USDA or a state animal health official to access just that data.”

For more insight into how this system might work and the direction industry discussions on the subject are headed, listen to Hays’ full conversation with Watson, on today’s Beef Buzz.

The Beef Buzz is a regular feature heard on radio stations around the region on the Radio Oklahoma Network and is a regular audio feature found on this website as well. Click on the LISTEN BAR below for today's show and check out our archives for older Beef Buzz shows covering the gamut of the beef cattle industry today.



For more insight into how this system might work, listen to Hays' full conversation with Watson, below.
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