What's Happening With Animal Premise ID?

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The USDA says by 2009 all farm animals that are sold for food purposes must have an identification number.

Like a driver’s license, each state would be responsible for creating a database of all places livestock are raised from large farms with hundreds of animals to backyards with just a handful of chickens.

The goal is rapid response in case of an outbreak like bird flu.

"The idea is how do we control and contain an animal disease outbreak and how do we limit economic damage," said David Anderson, agriculture economist, Texas A&M University.

Anderson says the idea of an animal ID program makes sense from a disease control standpoint. The Texas Animal Commission is having a difficult time implementing mandatory registration regulations because of too many loose ends.

"There's a lot of questions up in the air. How do you report? When do you report? Who has the database and what data or information goes with it?" said Anderson.

The commission planned to discuss the topic at a meeting in May, but earlier this month the sent a release saying the topic would be revisited in 2007. Anderson says with so many unanswered questions about the program, delays are to be expected.

"The USDA has put some timelines out and they've been revised several times because it just takes time to get this through a whole regulatory process," he said.

Anderson says some ranchers have concerns about registering their animals because they feel it is an invasion of privacy. The commission says financial information won't be included and they will only be asking for information if the animal is moved.

"If that cow, for instance, was born on your ranch and stayed there for its entire life, you wouldn't have that animal tagged," said Anderson.

Right now animal IDs are optional, and so far only four percent of livestock in the state are registered.