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National Animal Identification System Controversy

By: Erika Kurre
By: Erika Kurre

New technology could make it easier to track animals, from household pets to livestock. It’s all part of a National Animal Identification System the United States Department of Agriculture is trying to put in place.

NAIS is intended to be a safeguard against diseased animals but the system is stirring up controversy; most are saying its more trouble than it's worth.

Mad Cow Disease is just one reason officials feel the need to be able to track animals but some are worried the system will be too costly, destroy property rights and will be a technological nightmare.

"Right now they're having problems. They're having a lot of discussion with some of the database; who's going to control it? A lot of private entities want to control it and a lot of people don't want that. They want the government to control it. So they're trying to work something out there," said Ed Neel, Dothan Livestock Company.

Some say the most difficult part will be getting the system going. Implanting the tracking devices and tagging the animals will be a hassle at first, but most cattle owners in the Wiregrass seem open to the idea.

Cattle owner Marcus Shelley said, "A lot of people in my age bracket there are going to be a little bit complication having to tag them like they're supposed to be done. I don't see anything wrong with it though."

In fact, some are even hoping it will make people more comfortable knowing cattle can be tracked.

Brian Potter said, "The last thing we need is people worrying about getting bad beef, bad cattle and if they know where it comes from, it will make buyers more comfortable about it and you know, we've got to have buyers to be able to sell our beef."

The goal is to implement a premise ID by 2007 and then to be able to track individual animals by 2009. However it all depends on how soon a solid plan is made and the technology that will be involved.

So far, Congress has already provided almost $85 million for the identification system. They have allocated another $33 million but won't release that until the controversy dies down.

There will be a meeting about this issue at the Dothan Livestock Company next Tuesday, May 23, at 6 p.m. Representatives from the U.S. Cattle Industry will be there to address questions and concerns.


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