ADT: Changes Coming?

November 29, 2017 10:30 AM
The USDA’s Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) rules, in place since 2013, have limited scope and a fairly low level of recognition, but ongoing discussions could lead to gradual expansion of the program.

In her role with the Livestock Marketing association, Chelsea Good has closely followed the development and application of ADT policies.


The USDA’s Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) rules, in place since 2013, have limited scope and a fairly low level of recognition among beef producers, but ongoing discussions could lead to gradual expansion of the program.

In a late-November ADT webinar, hosted by GlobalVetLink, Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) Vice President for Government and Industry Affairs Chelsea Good reviewed some of those discussions and outlined likely directions for the future of the ADT program. LMA has been heavily engaged in the ADT issue for years, as its livestock auction member often fill the role of helping customers comply with ADT rules.

Good notes that the current law focuses on cattle of breeding age and dairy cattle, with a variety of exemptions for other classes. The current system does not cover beef feeder cattle, which represent the largest number of cattle moving in interstate commerce and potentially the greatest risk for transmission of disease. Also, when USDA designed the current rule, they included provisions for states to reach agreements on the types of identification and documentation required for covered livestock crossing their borders.

Based on feedback from LMA members, Good says awareness of ADT rules remains low among cattle producers, and variations in state regulations can complicate compliance when sales result in cattle moving across state lines. She notes that the website, hosted by the U.S. Animal Health Association and the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, provides easy access to ADT rules for interstate movements of livestock. Users simply type in the origin, destination and species of livestock, then follow a series of prompts to receive a list of regulations and required documents.

Over the summer of 2017, the USDA hosted a series of ADT listening sessions around the country, and Good attended all of them. Producers attending those meetings expressed common concerns, including confidentiality of information, potential liability, inconsistencies between state requirements and associated costs, especially if the program expands to include additional classes of cattle and full birth-to-slaughter traceability.

The current system allows visual tags, including metal National Uniform Eartagging System (NUES) tags, also known as “brite” tags, as official identification. These tags provide a low-cost option, but manual reading of the ID numbers slows commerce and potentially leads to transcription errors. The general consensus seems to favor a full transition to electronic radio frequency ID (RFID) tags for official identification.

Most stakeholders participating in the meetings agree that the exemption for feeder cattle should remain in place for now, due to logistical and financial challenges.

A state and federal ADT working group, comprised mostly of USDA and state animal-health officials, has developed a list of preliminary recommendations on key issues as identified through the public listening sessions. The recommendations are not yet publicly available, pending internal review at USDA/APHIS. Once reviewed, the recommendations will be subject to public comment. Good says likely changes include a gradual shift to RFID tags and increased standardization of rules and enforcement policies, but not an expansion of the program to include feeder cattle in the near term.

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