The discovery of a Holstein with mad cow disease in Washington state is now the driving force behind a mandatory nationwide system of animal identification.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns says the goal of the system is to limit the scope of disease outbreaks by allowing authorities to track down an exposed animal or bird within 48 hours.
Under the program, the government would require farmers, feedlots and packing houses to track every cow, pig and chicken in the country from birth through slaughter by 2009.
Animal producers, concerned about confidentiality, don't like the idea of a government-run system. Instead, they want to see a voluntary clearinghouse of information, which would give state and federal officials limited access to it.