© Doreen Hannes
On Thursday, January 13th, 2010 there was a Senate Government Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee hearing at the Capitol on the usage of National Animal Identification System "840" tags by the veterinarians at sale barns across Missouri.
The hearing was to allay the confusion amongst sale barns and determine whether or not the Department of Agriculture was following the voluntary parameters set for NAIS in Missouri by the usage of these "840" tags.
The NAIS (National Animal Identification System) is a 3 part program. The first prong is Premises registration with a seven character number permanently assigned to a particular location housing or holding animals. The second prong is the use of these "840" tags which necessitate a premise id number to be used. The third component is the reporting of movements from the ascribed premises and various other things such as vaccinations and tag replacements and "sightings".
Near the beginning of December it came to light that many sale barn markets in the state of Missouri were using the 840 tags on cows going through chutes who had no official identification. It was reported that as of January 1st, 2010, all cows, with or without official identification, would receive the 840 tags when they went through chutes for health tests or pregnancy checks Different markets reported different criteria for this NAIS "840" identification of cows. Some producers reported they were told they "had to" use the 840 tags in order to sell cattle at some sale barns.
In 2008, the Missouri General Assembly passed SB931, prohibiting the Department of Agriculture from mandating or otherwise forcing participation in NAIS, and allowing for the immediate removal from the program of anyone who was assigned a premises id unless they were part of a disease control program or an ongoing disease investigation.
This hearing was to clear up confusion on the law as it applies to both the state of Missouri and the veterinarians licensed by the state. Chairman, Senator Chuck Purgason, stated, "We want to clear up confusion, and to make sure veterinarians are not violating people's rights regarding this program."
Missouri State Veterinarian, Dr. Taylor Woods and Secretary of Agriculture, Dr. Jon Hagler, did not appear at the beginning of the hearing. A representative from the Department of Ag and a veterinarian with the State Vet's office, Dr. Linda Hickle, appeared, but knew little of policy and stated that the Secretary and State Vet were not aware that they were to be present at this hearing.
Three other individuals testified at the hearing and during the last testimony, the State veterinarian and Secretary of Agriculture came into the hearing room.
They testified that they had no official written policy on the usage of the "840" tags and had communicated with the market veterinarians by face to face contact regarding the allocation of the 100,000 "840" tags the Department has received from the USDA. They stated they had no particular agreement as to the distribution and application of the NAIS tags, but that the application of the tags was to be at the discretion of the market veterinarian.
The Department was instructed by the Committee to write and distribute to all market veterinarians instructions on the usage of these "840" tags and to inform the market veterinarians that the application of "840" tags was to be done solely at the request of the producer in compliance with the law of the State of Missouri.
No instructions or inquiries were made into how any redress is to be achieved by those who may already have been put into the NAIS program without their knowledge or consent by buying or selling cattle through a market that was applying the tags to all cows from January 1st through the time of the distribution of the letter requiring compliance with the state law.