USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has released a draft Business Plan to further the implementation of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

AMS encourages participants in voluntary marketing programs such as the USDA Process Verified, the Quality Systems Assessment and the Non-Hormone Treated Cattle Programs to meet the inherent animal identification requirements by using NAIS.

"The AMS Business Plan will allow for integration of the National Animal Identification System with AMS audit-based marketing programs," said Bruce Knight, under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs.

"NAIS is a voluntary partnership among producers and government. This immediately provides the producer a twofold reward for a single investment. It ensures trace back of their animals for herd health reasons and provides benefits for marketing value-added animals domestically and internationally."

Currently, all AMS partners that have approved marketing programs are actively encouraging the use of premise registration and NAIS compliant Animal Identification Numbers for these marketing program participants. Using NAIS, producers would at the same time meet the requirements for animal identification and traceability for these AMS marketing programs. Further, use of NAIS along with enrollment in these voluntary AMS marketing programs ensures that cattle are eligible for the AMS Export Verification Program for Japan with an opportunity for significant premiums for cattle producers.

NAIS would single out product derived from these cattle so that it can be labeled properly when presented for sale at U.S. grocery stores, for American consumers. This helps meet the objectives of the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program by identifying the origin of cattle upon arrival at harvest facilities.

Contingent upon the publication of a Final Rule implementing COOL for meat and poultry products, AMS and USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will coordinate efforts to develop a COOL "safe harbor" for NAIS participants: packers that rely upon NAIS to determine the origin of their livestock and poultry will subsequently be recognized by the Department as demonstrating compliance with the COOL program's record keeping requirements.

Additional information about NAIS is available at www.usda.gov/nais and AMS voluntary marketing programs at http://www.ams.usda.gov/lsg/arc/audit.htm