April 16 2012 12:00 AM

Transferring genetic evaluations from USDA to the private sector is the issue.

Milwaukee, Wis., will be the gathering spot as leaders from A.I. companies, breed associations, milk testing organizations, and other aligned sectors gather this week. Their joint mission: to determine if they can compromise to forge an agreement on the future of U.S. genetic evaluations.

The entire group last met on October 25. At that meeting, nearly the entire discussion focused on further developing a joint Cooperative Agreement between the industry and USDA. As you may know, USDA is the organization that currently conducts genetic evaluations for the dairy industry. The Cooperative Agreement will shape how evaluations are carried out in the future and what organizations have access to the information.

Also part of the mix last October was discussions about the Business Plan. It would provide the structure to guide joint operations and funding moving forward. Although USDA does not get involved in private matters, it is on the record and wanting to review the document before transferring the nation's dairy genetic database to this private entity.

Since last fall, the two committees working on the Cooperative Agreement and Business Plan have met to hammer out details. Progress had been slow. But work was reignited when the Holstein Association brought forth an alternative proposal in Chicago, Ill., earlier this winter. To date, groups have not endorsed the alternative proposal but recognized merits of its components.

Those attending this week's meeting will learn just how far the group has come in negotiating the future of U.S. genetic evaluations. There have been a number of documents distributed giving some organization's interpretation on the developments. But, to date, no concrete documents (Cooperative Agreement and Business Plan) have been publicly distributed with the entire industry. Recent activity by the committees has reportedly brought a plan closer to fruition.

During the last meeting, all in attendance agreed that these formal agreements, once developed in principle, should be on the Council of Dairy Cattle Breeding's website along with other industry outlets for complete visibility, transparency, and industry review. If the group completes this goal, we will have those materials available for your review shortly.

As Steve Kappes, deputy administrator for USDA's Agricultural Research Service said in October, "There is no reason this process should not be public. People want to see details. In the end, this agreement needs to represent the entire industry."