A proposal to strengthen the tracking of U.S. cattle has been sent to the White House for a fast-track review after a case of mad cow disease was discovered in California and spurred calls for a more stringent system.
“We have a lot of confidence in a rule we think will work,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters today in Washington. He said he hopes the Office of Management and Budget will approve the new animal-identification plan quickly.
Critics including Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, have said the discovery of the first U.S. case of mad cow disease since 2006, announced by the government on April 24, points to the need for a more effective livestock-tracking system.
A nationwide animal-identification plan that would allow officials to quickly trace sick livestock back to their farms of origin -- and help identify other infected animals -- has been promised by the USDA since just after the country’s first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, surfaced in late 2003. The latest infection was the fourth confirmed in U.S. herds.
A voluntary animal ID plan was abandoned in 2010 after some ranchers refused to participate, citing cost and concerns that the proposed registry would give competitors proprietary information.
The rule Vilsack referred to, which the USDA proposed in August, would require registration and tagging of livestock moved between states, with guidelines tailored to different species. It would be put in place gradually, applying first to older animals in the U.S. cattle herd.
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