As Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, I understand the potential benefits that may be derived from a voluntary, private-based National Animal Identification System (NAIS); however, I also recognize the significant consequences for producers if missteps are made along the way. The language included in the Agriculture Appropriations bill adopted by the House requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to lay out the detailed plan for the system before proceeding with its implementation.

The bill withholds further NAIS funding until the Secretary of Agriculture publishes an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) outlining how USDA's animal ID system is intended to work. In my discussions with livestock producers throughout the country, I continue to hear concerns about the cost, liability, regulatory burdens, confidentiality and barriers to commerce that have yet to be addressed. When livestock owners are only provided vague, indeterminate information about a system that could significantly impact their daily lives, they are forced to fill in the details themselves, and there are no limits to the imagination. I am sure we would all shy away from investing in an enterprise that failed to produce or discuss the terms of a contract but expected an agreement in the meantime.

We want to know what the Department is doing and the best way to find out is to require that they publish their intentions before proceeding any further. By withholding the funding, the House is promoting open government. Then we will be able to engage in full and thoughtful debate about animal ID and determine how best to move forward with this important public policy initiative.