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USDA finalizes rule requiring EID for interstate movement

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

On April 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released a final rule requiring certain cattle and bison to have electronic identification (EID) eartags when moving across state lines. 

The final rule amends a previous rule from 2013 which required visual identification tags for interstate movement of sexually-intact cattle and bison 18 months of age or older, cattle and bison of any age used for rodeo or recreation events or shown for exhibition and all dairy cattle.

Now, eartags applied to these cattle and bison on or after 180 days following publication in the Federal Register must be both visually and electronically readable. 

Benefits of traceability 

In its final rule, APHIS notes this new amendment will enhance the industry’s ability to quickly respond to high-risk diseases, both domestic and foreign. 

One disease of particular importance is foot and mouth disease (FMD), which is estimated to cause $221 billion in economic losses if an outbreak were to occur in the U.S. 

“One of the most significant benefits of the rule for farmers and ranchers will be the enhanced ability of the U.S. to limit impacts of animal disease outbreaks to certain regions, which is key to maintaining our foreign markets,” wrote USDA in their April 26 news brief announcing the rule.

“By being able to readily prove disease-free status in non-affected regions of the U.S., we will be able to request foreign trading partners recognize disease-free regions or zones instead of cutting off trade for the entire country,” the agency continues. “Traceability of animals is necessary to establish these disease-free zones and facilitate reestablishment of foreign and domestic market access with minimum delay in the wake of an animal disease event.” 

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) offered their support of the rule, and following its announcement on April 26, NCBA President and Wyoming Rancher Mark Eisele issued a statement. 

Eisele notes many cattlemen are already familiar with using visual tags under the USDA’s 2013 rule, and now, the only change they will have to implement is using EIDs. 

“NCBA has worked hard to secure $15 million in funding for producers to reduce the cost of implementing this change,” he shares. “We also remain committed to safeguarding producers’ private data and continuing to reduce the cost of eartags for farmers and ranchers.” 

Eisele points out EIDs are often easier to read, only 11 percent of the U.S. cow herd is impacted by this rule, and the rule won’t take effect for another six months, allowing producers time to prepare.

He adds, “Our industry faces a tremendous threat from the risk of a future foreign animal disease on American soil. To avoid devastating financial losses during a potential outbreak and to help producers quickly return to commerce, we need an efficient animal disease traceability system.” 

Industry opposition

While some appreciate the potential benefits EIDs will provide to the industry, others are not as supportive of the new rule. 

R-CALF USA Chief Executive Officer Bill Bullard expressed his organization’s disappointment in the rule. 

“It’s no surprise while USDA claims this EID mandate is to improve disease control, it proudly discloses in the rule’s accompanying press release ‘the most significant benefit of the rule is to maintain foreign markets,’” Bullard says. “This is because the beneficiaries of this rule are not cattle producers or consumers. Instead, this rule is intended to benefit multinational beef packers and multinational eartag manufacturers who will profit at the expense of cattle producers and consumers.” 

He continues, “In fact, because the rule is cost-prohibitive for independent cattle producers, the agency is using millions of taxpayer dollars to give millions of their unnecessary EID eartags away.” 

Bullard further notes R-CALF USA will fight against the implementation of “this disastrous rule which infringes on the freedoms and liberties of the nation’s independent cattle farmers and ranchers.” 

“This is government overreach at its worst,” he concludes. “Our goal will be to restore for our nation’s cattle producers the flexibility USDA promised them when they agreed to the agency’s 2013 rule.” 

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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