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Premises ID for food safety to move forward

Another building block toward a national livestock traceability system has fallen into place with the announcement of a premises identification system for Manitoba.

The province will spend $400,000 on a database to pinpoint and register all Manitoba farms that produce livestock by geographic location.

The premises identification database will tie into livestock ID systems, which commodity groups either have or are developing.

Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk announced the initiative Jan. 28 at the Keystone Agricultural Producers annual meeting.

Wowchuk said the database will piggyback on a $100,000 pilot project conducted last year with IBM to show traceability was feasible.

The current project will start with livestock but the eventual goal is to include all farms producing agr i-food products, she said.

Premises ID is the second of three steps toward a full food traceability system, said provincial veterinarian Dr. Wayne Lees, whose office will co-ordinate the project. The first step is identifying animals and the third is a system to track them from farm to retail.

Lees called food traceability a collaborative effort between government and industry. Commodity groups are responsible for animal ID and movement reporting. A federal-provincial traceability task team oversees government’s role in developing an eventual national traceability system.

Some producers at the KAP meeting expressed concern that information collected about farms could be used for purposes other than food safety.

“We’ve drawn our line in the sand a long time ago that this information will be given out only for reportable diseases and won’t be given out for any other reason,” said Joe Bouchard, Manitoba Cattle Producers Association president.

Wowchuk said the project will ensure confidentiality.

“I have absolute confidence that this can be done in a confidential way and will be used when it’s needed,” she told reporters.

“We do a lot of work with farmers. We collect a lot of information. There has not been a case where confidentiality has been breached.”

Ian Wishart, KAP president, said his group also has concerns about confidentiality. But he noted that current programs, such as crop insurance, protect individual producers’ privacy.

“Certainly, done properly, we can make this system work,” Wishart said. [email protected]

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