Wednesday, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) filed comments on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposed rule “Use of Electronic Identification Eartags as Official Identification in Cattle and Bison” to emphasize the importance of electronic animal identification to protect the cattle industry from the threat of a foreign animal disease. USDA’s proposed rule would apply to cattle 18-months or older only when moving interstate.
“An outbreak of a foreign animal disease in the United States, like foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), would be catastrophic to the cattle industry and our way of life,” said NCBA President Todd Wilkinson, a South Dakota cattle producer. “Traceability is about risk protection and ensuring we have the tools to quickly identify and respond to an outbreak while strengthening consumer trust in our high-quality beef. Our comments emphasize the importance of protecting the U.S. cattle herd from the threat of a foreign animal disease while also protecting producers’ private data, limiting the cost of tagging devices, and operating at the speed of commerce.”
NCBA notes without a national traceability system in place, the impact of a foreign animal disease outbreak would be magnified. For example, an FMD outbreak in the U.S. would lead to an immediate stop of all livestock movement for at least 72 hours. Most major export markets would close to U.S. beef and the estimated economic impact could be as high as $228 billion.
NCBA says a traceability system supports cattle producers quickly returning to normal operations after a disease outbreak. Traceability data would allow producers in low-risk areas to resume transporting cattle, while helping animal health officials stop the spread of disease in high-risk areas.