Idea of animal IDs has its fans

NORTH CAROLINA - Area farmers like concept of a database for tracking. Imagine having 48 hours to find a single cow, chicken or pig among 9 billion animals in the United States.

The ability to track an animal in two days or less in the case of mad-cow disease - or after a bioterrorism attack - is the driving force behind a draft plan of a National Animal Identification System that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns made public Thursday.

Companies, farmers and government agencies have long tracked animals, but the new system would create a national database to make the information quicker and easier to get.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture have been working on the plan since at least 2003, but they promised to speed up the process after officials in Washington state discovered mad-cow disease 18 months ago in a cow imported from Canada.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture announced its voluntary tracking plan this year. The plan, NCFarmID, is focusing now on registering farms with beef or dairy cattle, sheep or goats.

Producers can voluntarily fill out a two-page form to receive a farm-identification number from the state. The manager of NCFarmID, Dr. Mary Ann McBride, said that the program has issued more than 1,150 farm-identification numbers in three months.

Already, cattle buyers are asking for a farm's ID number. The farmers turn to the program McBride runs.

"They are calling me and say 'Hey, I need a number,'" McBride said. "That's great."

That identifier, called a premise ID number, is the extent of what North Carolina is doing now, she said. Although some farm organizations have brought up concerns about confidentiality, McBride says that the form doesn't ask for any information that the government doesn't already have.

calendar icon 9 May 2005
clock icon 1 minute read
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