The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is reserving the use of animal identification numbers with the 840 prefix to only animals born in the United States. The number 840 is the U.S. country code and appears at the beginning of all animal identification numbers issued in this country.

"The ability to quickly locate an animal's origin during an animal disease investigation is absolutely essential," said Bruce Knight, under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs. "The more quickly we can determine the source and extent of an outbreak, the more effectively we can contain it. The use of animal identification numbers with the 840 prefix on U.S.-born animals provides animal health officials with key information about the animal's origin immediately."

By reserving use of this number, producers who use the 840 animal identification numbering system will have a convenient and cost-effective method which documents the origin of their animals in the United States to packers for country of origin labeling (COOL). Packers can rely upon this information for their origin claims on products at retail, in accordance with COOL.

With this interim rule, animal identification numbers with the 840 prefix will be used only on animals born in the United States. In the event of a disease outbreak, this will enable USDA to use the animal identification number to more quickly determine the animal's origin.

While USDA does not require the use of the 840 animal identification number for individual animal identification, producers who do use it will be able to use that 840 number for more than just identification. For example, 840 animal identification numbers also can be used in animal health programs, marketing programs, animal movement records, genetic programs and breed registries.

Also, any imported animal that loses its country of origin identification device cannot be retagged using an 840 animal identification number. These animals can be retagged only with an official identification device using a numbering system other than the 840 animal identification number.

Finally, this interim rule makes it unlawful to remove any official animal identification device, including those applied in other countries and recognized by APHIS for animals entering the United States. These devices are essential for the complete and proper traceability of imported animals.

This interim rule is necessary to enhance animal traceback capabilities for both domestic and imported livestock as well as better contain disease outbreaks.

This interim rule was scheduled for publication in the Sept. 18 Federal Register and becomes effective on publication.

Consideration will be given to comments received on or before Nov. 17. Send two copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. APHIS-2008-0077, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

Comments can be submitted on the Federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail=APHIS-2008-0077

Comments are posted on the Reglations.gov Web site and also can be reviewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th St. and Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. To facilitate entry into the comment reading room, please call (202) 690-2817.