Plans by the US Government to require farmers and ranchers to put ID tags in livestock may sound good within the Beltway, but as a reality can we really afford the cost and are these ID tags worth the effort? No doubt that the original plan to protect the country from cattle borne epidemics makes sense, however rural America does not have broadband Internet access, and it will not be all that soon. Plus many of us who help manage family owned farms know that most farmers and ranchers cannot make a living, so to add costs to raising livestock sounds incredible.

National Animal Identification System (NAIS)

Here are the NAIS objectives: “To protect the health of U.S. livestock and poultry and the economic well-being of those industries, we must be able to quickly and effectively trace an animal disease to its source. When a disease outbreak occurs, animal health officials need to know:
* Which animals are involved in a disease outbreak
* Where the infected animals are currently located
* What other animals might have been exposed to the disease”
All laudable, but are these objectives practical?

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)

Although below public radar the use of RFID has been around for decades, and used in a myriad of applications including US Department of Defense (DOD), healthcare, CPG (consumer packaged goods), manufacturing, and retail. Healthcare uses RFID to help track wounded troops in war zones and keeping up with specimens in hospitals. As well a few years ago DOD mandated that all suppliers use RFID, but what really got more public scrutiny was when Wal-Mart began testing RFID on all products. As a result in 2004 the Federal Trade Commission conducted a workshop to explore RFID as many consumer privacy and security concerns got more visibility.

So it seems reasonable to track livestock to avoid major disease outbreaks if we can track DOD supplies and hospital patients. However at what cost and who pays? Ultimately consumers will pay higher food prices if the livestock tracking is required, but the need for high speed Internet in rural America is also essential for this proposed tracking system to work.

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