by SUSAN MANN
National mandatory identification and traceability regulations for several livestock sectors will soon be a reality, but one livestock association is sounding the alarm over problems that have emerged during consultations.
Lorraine Stevenson-Hall of the Canadian National Goat Federation released a report last month outlining the difficulties industry and government still face as they work to implement the mandatory requirement, which will be part of federal Health of Animals Act regulations.
The proposed regulations will likely be posted on Canada Gazette, Part 1, by the end of the year for more consultations and be in place towards the end of next year. (See related website story from Feb. 26, 2016).
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are leading the consultations on the proposed regulations.
In her report and during a telephone interview, Stevenson-Hall noted that not all provinces have mandatory premise identification requirements. Moreover, there is a lack of agreement between industry and government on how movement reporting will be done.
Stevenson-Hall said many of the problems surfaced at an early March industry/government advisory committee meeting in Calgary. The committee is helping to lead implementation of the national agriculture and food traceability system.
“It hasn’t been determined who’s going to bear the costs of industry needing to report the movements of livestock and the costs associated with the livestock movement manifests,” she said. A manifest is a document for reporting livestock movements that would accompany animals as they move from, for example, a farm to an assembly yard and then to slaughter.
“It hasn’t been established yet who is responsible for recording information at each point as animals move through the system and who has to make sure it’s filled out correctly,” she said.
However, Corlena Patterson, executive director of the Canadian Sheep Federation, said in a telephone interview it’s her understanding animal-receiving sites will be responsible for reporting the movements based on what she heard from government representatives at the meeting.
At the March meeting in Calgary, industry representatives weren’t given written documents that spell out specific proposed regulations regarding movement requirements, Patterson noted. Industry representatives just saw a power point presentation from government officials at the meeting and officials outlined some of the details.
“We know, essentially, with a few exceptions what type of information will need to be collected,” Patterson said. There is still a dispute, however, on whether group or individual animal movements will need to be reported.
“The government is proposing different requirements for different receiving sites,” she said.
Currently there are mandatory animal identification requirements for sheep but not mandatory movement reporting rules.
Another major problem, said Stevenson-Hall, is a delay in the development of the multi-species traceability database being undertaken by Trace Canada, also known by its corporate name of Canadian Agri-Traceability Services.
She said the database’s development is held up because Trace Canada doesn’t yet have a licensing agreement with Agri-Traçabilité Quebec. The agreement is significantly delayed because the ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) has yet to approve providing the intellectual property rights licensing agreement to Trace Canada, which the federal government has stipulated it must have.
Joshua Belinko, Trace Canada executive director, and Terry Kremeniuk, board chair, both declined to comment. Kremeniuk said, “because of the sensitivity of the discussions that are taking place on issues related to traceability I’m just not able to share any additional information at this point in time.”
Stevenson-Hall said Trace Canada officials have said they are working on some other options if the licensing agreement with Quebec isn’t obtained.
“We don’t know what those are at this point,” she explained, noting the database was supposed to be completed late last year.
Stevenson-Hall said premise identification is one of the three pillars of traceability, along with animal identification and movement reporting. “For animals to move from one place to another, there needs to be identification of where they’re moving to,” she noted.
Rob McNabb, general manager of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, said they too are concerned that not all provinces have implemented mandatory premise identification. “Without premise ID (identification), a regulatory requirement for movement reporting that requires the premise ID would be extremely difficult.”
The concern that not all provinces have mandatory rules requiring premises to be identified can be managed, Patterson noted. Once the government’s mandatory national identification and traceability requirements are in place, it will be mandatory for farmers to have the premise identification “to handle or manage any animals under that traceability regulation.”
Moreover, all provinces have a mechanism to issue premise identification to farmers, processors and other sites that may require it, she said. “Everybody can get a premise identification even if it remains voluntary to get it.”
Patterson said she’s optimistic the database will eventually be finalized. “We are not concerned that it won’t happen. We know that it will; it’s just when is the concern.”
Stevenson-Hall said industry representatives also noted at the Calgary meeting that traceability costs and livestock movement reporting requirements for primary producers “need to be fair; the costs of full traceability can’t be borne solely by producers.” Consumers also need to contribute, she said. “This is something government will need to contribute to so the program can be sustainable.”
Governments haven’t yet made a commitment to pay on-going costs for traceability, she noted.
However, governments have provided funding to livestock groups to help with traceability development, such as the $255,487 the goat federation received recently from the federal government to help it prepare for the mandatory traceability requirements.
McNabb said the cattle industry was asked several years ago to develop an implementation plan for mandatory movement reporting and it did that. Federal and provincial governments in place in 2010/2011 agreed to the industry’s proposal.
The plan calls for movement reporting requirements to be gradually phased in because “the technology isn’t there yet to be able to rapidly scan those ear tags, particularly at places like auction markets or assembly yards,” he said.
Based on the current consultations, however, “CFIA has not indicated that they’re interested in following the (cattle industry developed implementation) plan,” McNabb said.
Mandatory identification for cattle has been in place for 15 years. Since 2001, all cattle must have mandatory ear tag identification when they leave the farm of origin. The tags, that farmers must buy, have cost an average of $3 a piece during the past 15 years, McNabb said.
The goat sector will complete research later this year on what ear tag or other animal identification methods, such as bands placed just above the goat’s hoof, are best for identifying goats, Stevenson-Hall said. The goat federation is also working to find a database administrator.
“We would likely have more than one option for producers,” for goat identification, she said. Once the goat industry decides which identifiers are acceptable, the CFIA must also approve them for the industry’s use.
As for pork, it already has mandatory identification and movement reporting requirements. Gary Stordy, public relations manager for the Canadian Pork Council, said the pork industry still has some bugs to work out with its system. However, “we have a system that works relatively well for the pork industry.” BF