In May, our genetic industry leaders - A.I., breed associations, and milk testing organizations - publicly shared the first of two draft documents that are to guide U.S. dairy genetic evaluations next year and beyond. That legal manuscript known as the Cooperative Agreement details the conditions that must be met so USDA's Agricultural Research Service can transfer our national genetic database from government to the private sector.

Unfortunately, the Cooperative Agreement makes for some rather meaningless reading because it really needs to be interpreted alongside the yet-to-be-released Business Plan. The Business Plan is to spell out the flow of money and the control of the data.

In the meantime, those of us in the industry were faced with the task of commenting on the initial document during a 29-day window without any way to assess the full financial implications. That is unfortunate because the consensus at the October Council of Dairy Cattle Breeding meeting was that the Business Plan would be completed first.

As it is, the Cooperative Agreement is open to a great deal of interpretation. Without having it spelled out in the new accord, we fully expect that all genetic leaders can agree that every data contributor will continue to have open access to genetic evaluations through a website similar to the one currently maintained by USDA's Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory. This is a rather simple suggestion; however, the Council of Dairy Cattle Breeding has yet to establish its own website to disseminate information nearly a decade after its formation.

We have no doubt that much more clarity will be revealed once the Business Plan gets released to all of us. Until then, we trust that genetic leaders will abide by previously agreed upon intentions and wait for comment on both plans from all stakeholders before inking a deal.

This editorial appears on page 404 of the June 2012 issue of Hoard's Dairyman.