Subject: Take Action on Proposed Requirement for Electronic Animal Identification!

View this email online if it doesn't display correctly
Hi Friend,

Independent family farmers are facing going out of business and consumers are facing record high meat prices due to the highly consolidated meat industry that is controlled by a handful of large meatpacking corporations. Yet the federal government is again proposing new requirements that benefit these corporations while imposing another obstacle to independent family farmers to providing locally and sustainably produced products for consumers who value these production methods. 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it intends to mandate electronic identification tags for cattle that cross state lines. And since many state animal ID programs are connected to the federal one, in practical terms, many farmers will be forced to use these Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) tags even for in-state movements. Currently, the USDA provides metal ear tags to farmers and ranchers for animal traceability. Under the new proposal, farmers and ranchers would have to pay $2-$2.60 for an electronic tag per head, and there may be costs related to the use of electronic readers as well. This proposal has been made with no discussion of any actual problems with animal or disease traceability and in fact without any scientific basis. Yet the new program will be costly to smaller independent farmers and it will again be the large corporations able to absorb the costs.

USDA and the large meatpackers argue that traceability is about addressing animal disease and food safety. But we know that’s not the whole truth—far from it. It’s about furthering corporate control of the meat industry by creating yet more regulations that promote international trade for the big meatpackers, are cheap for large-scale operations, and burden family farmers.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the vast majority of food-borne illnesses in meat are the result of practices at the slaughterhouse and in processing and handling. Millions of pounds of meat have been recalled due to unsanitary conditions and poor oversight at huge slaughterhouses. Since animal ID programs end at the slaughterhouse door requiring RFID tags on cattle will not increase food safety. Nor will RFID tags make our animals healthier. USDA continues to allow imports of livestock from countries with known disease problems. The pork industry already converted to an electronic ID system, but that did not prevent widespread animal deaths when the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus hit the U.S. in 2013.

If USDA wanted to address food safety and animal disease, it would increase oversight and testing at the large meat processing plants and stop boxed meat and live cattle imports from countries with known disease problems. These two steps would do far more to promote a safe, secure food supply than sticking RFID tags in cows’ ears.

Concerns with the proposed mandatory RFID tags:
  • The proposal would require farmers and ranchers to pay $2-$2.60 per head for electronic id tags while they currently receive metal ID tags at no cost. There may also be a need to pay for improved infrastructure in some places to be able to read the tags—making the proposal cost prohibitive for smaller farmers and ranchers.
  • There has been no discussion of how the government will collect the data kept on these ID tags, who will access the data and under what conditions. The data will not only be in government databases but collected by individual veterinarians as well.
  • The ID tags will not improve food safety, as mentioned above, but will assist the export market. Again, the proposal thus provides assistance to the larger meatpacking companies at the expense of smaller farmers and ranchers.
  • Because tags are likely to fall out or not work, low tech systems such as branding will still likely be needed as backup.
  • Finally, USDA has invited public comments, but is not engaging in the formal rulemaking process. This avoids a full cost-benefit analysis or address the impact on small business as is required in formal rulemaking.
Please see below for suggested action steps.

Alexia Kulwiec
Executive Director
Take Action

The USDA is accepting public comment until October 5. 

You can submit comments to USDA online HERE.

Given USDA’s improperly close relationship with the meatpackers and technology companies, getting the agency to change its mind will be difficult. So also send your comments to your U.S. Representative and Senators and urge them to stop USDA from spending taxpayer dollars on this bad program.

Emails: You can look up who represents you and send a message online HERE.

Calls: You can look up your U.S. Representative at and your Senators at, or call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to their offices

Thank you for taking action!

If you’d like to make a donation to support the work of Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund to bring you these informative legislative updates and work to improve federal and state laws, please donate HERE. | 703-208-FARM (3276) |
8116 Arlington Blvd Suite #263, Falls Church, VA 22042, United States
You may unsubscribe or change your contact details at any time.