The Government Accountability Office released a report Thursday identifying weaknesses in USDA's plan to implement a national animal identification system.
The report identified the following problems that could undermine USDA's ability to use the system to trace an outbreak to its source, as reported in a release from Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, ahead of the official GAO release on its Web site:
- Tracing animals from their original origin will be problematic given that USDA is not requiring critical information, such as the type of animal species, date of birth, or approximate age of animals to be recorded in the animal ID system.
- USDA has not prioritized the implementation of the animal ID system according to economic value of the species or those most at risk for specific animal diseases.
- USDA has not developed a plan to integrate the animal ID system with preexisting animal disease eradication programs for hogs, cattle, sheep or goats, thus duplicating effort and cost to producers.
- USDA has awarded 169 animal ID cooperative agreements totaling $35 million but has failed to adequately monitor the agreements or determine if the intended outcomes, for which the funds were used, were achieved. USDA has also not consistently shared the results of the agreements with state departments of agriculture, industry groups, or other stakeholders to allow them to learn from experience under the cooperative agreements.
- The timeframe for effective animal disease traceback from where animals have been raised is not clearly defined for specific species.
- USDA has no benchmarks to determine if there is sufficient participation to achieve an effective animal ID system.