In the past, the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, has allowed farmers and ranchers to choose what identification method they prefer to use to mark their cattle. Recently the USDA issued a formal notice requiring the use of Radio Frequency Identification -- or RFID.
Since the mid 2000’s, the USDA has been trying to impose a universal system for livestock identification but received a lot of resistance from farmers and ranchers across the country.
To get American cattle producers to accept the new technology, the department plans to provide approximately 8 million RFID ear tags to producers free of charge.
Bill Bullard heads a national cattle organization that opposes the USDA ‘s cattle tags. Bullard’s organization is called R-CALF USA. He said the tags are foreign-made.
“There's nothing inherently wrong with the RFID ear tag," said Bullard. "We have members using it now and earning a economic reward for doing so. What is wrong is when the government mandates that in order to participate in the cattle industry, you must adopt this most expensive form of animal identification available and as a result of a mandate, all the premiums that the people who are now falling Clearly using this, those premiums will evaporate, because no longer will the marketplace have to pay for the value that is added by virtue of having the records associated with a RFID ear tag.“
Bullard said it will be up to cattle ranchers to pay for the cost of transitioning to the new technology and that many may not be able to afford it.
“The cost of the tag is only a small portion of the cost that producers will bear because we do not now have the infrastructure in order to support this RFID technology," explained Bullard. "So in addition to tagging every animal that cattle producers are also going to have to buy electronic wand and a software and hardware system that could maintain a database and then they need the ability to transfer that database to a state or national database where it can all be centralized.”
Currently, farmers and ranchers are able to use tattoos, back tags, brands or group lot identification to identify their cattle.