After mad cow, U.S. farmers warily back animal ID

January 9, 2004 in Nutrition Topics in the News

After mad cow, U.S. farmers warily back animal ID

America's traditionally independent farmers will drop their distrust of outside meddling to embrace a national livestock identification system as a safeguard against mad cow disease, leaders of the largest U.S. farm group say.

The Bush administration included speedy adoption of animal IDs among its new protections, headlined by a ban on using sick or crippled animals in food, after the Dec. 23 discovery of the first U.S. case of mad cow disease. However, it remains unclear whether the administration wants livestock IDs to be voluntary or mandatory.

Mad cow is expected to dominate the annual meeting of the 5.5 million-member American Farm Bureau Federation, opening on Sunday in Honolulu. At a minimum, the Farm Bureau will consider making animal ID a top priority for livestock and it may go further, to support a mandatory system, leaders said.

Assignment of ID numbers to individual animals is slated to begin in February 2005, starting with cattle, sheep and hogs. The chief goal is the ability to identify within 48 hours of a disease outbreak the animals involved and where they were raised, so disease will not spread. A uniform ID would be more reliable than the welter of numbering plans that now vary from farm to farm.

American farmers opposed the idea of government-required livestock IDs until mad cow disease was found in a Washington state dairy cow last month. Activist farm groups fear animal ID will shoulder aside their preferred response to mad cow

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