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Will the USDA's New Livestock Tagging Really Prevent Disease?


The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to announce a proposed new rule—the Animal Disease Traceability System—that would mandate livestock animal tracking through ID tagging. The agency has proposed similar rules in the past—beginning in the early 1990s and again in 2003 after 3 cases of "mad cow disease," bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) were discovered in the U.S.

Under the new rule, all 50 states would be responsible for creating and implementing a traceability program for cows, pigs, poultry, sheep and goats that will allow for more transparency and traceability in hopes of preventing widespread outbreaks of pathogens such as salmonella and e coli.

Family farmers and ranchers have concerns over the proposed ruling, criticizing the agency's agenda, citing a lack of coherency or factual explanations for the program's necessity. Patty Lovera of Food & Water Watch told the Cornucopia Institute, “Consumers need the USDA to start focusing on the animal health and food safety risks posed by industrialized meat production," adding that, “If USDA devoted as much energy to preventing animal diseases as it has to promoting animal tracking, our food system would be in much better shape.”

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Farmers opposed to the mandatory tagging suggest that large-scale factory farms can much more easily absorb the financial investments of the program than smaller operations. And, it's often the larger operations that produce the greater risk of contamination than the smaller farms.

Details concerning the actual requirements of the Animal Disease Traceability System have not yet been released, but are expected to include a range of tagging from vaccinations (applied by veterinarians) and management tags, applied by the producers.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Photo: Jill Ettinger

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