The USDA’s proposal to require radio frequency identification tags on cattle shipped across state lines would be costlier and have poorer retention rates than current tags, two Washington livestock groups say.

The Stevens County Cattlemen and Cattle Producers of Washington have submitted comments against USDA’s proposed requirement of RFID eartags. The comment deadline was Oct. 5.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service proposes requiring RFID tags as the official eartag in the interstate movement of cattle and bison. RFID eartags would enhance the ability of state, federal and private veterinarians and the livestock industry to quickly respond to high-impact diseases, according to APHIS.

The cost of the tags, at $2 to $3 each, is much higher than metal eartags that cost “a handful of cents,” said George Wishon, a member of the R-CALF USA board and a Colville, Wash., rancher.

Wishon said the RFID tags are not suited for range cattle operations. He estimated nearly 80% of cattle with the RFID tags will lose them. About 10% to 15% of cattle lose metal tags.

Ranchers would prefer to continue with metal tags under a rule established in 2013, he said.

“It’s getting the job done above adequately,” he said. “If a producer wants to use RFID tags, go for it, but don’t force it upon a whole bunch of us to pick up something that is expensive, has such poor retention rates and is really more than what we need to do.”

Under the proposal, as of Jan. 1, 2022, USDA would no longer approve vendors to use the official USDA shield in the production of metal eartags or other types that do not have RFID components.

RFID tags would become the only approved eartag as of Jan. 1, 2023.

APHIS would recognize the metal tag as an official identification device for the life of cattle and bison fitted with them before Jan. 1, 2023.

“This mandate would force additional cost upon our members, be less accurate in regards of long-term retention, and would also require that producers register their premises with the USDA, of which regulation we are also opposed to,” the groups commented, according to a press release. “The proposal will force us to incur costs that the current cattle market cannot absorb; and furthermore, we feel that it invades our rights to privacy.”

APHIS is expected to make a determination on the proposed rule in the coming weeks.

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