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published: April 2nd 2021

APHIS steps back on mandatory RFID tags

After reviewing 944 public comments on a July 2020 notice that proposed to approve Radio Fre-quency Identification (RFID) as the official eartag for use in interstate movement of cattle, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has decided to use the rulemaking process for future action related to this proposal. This means that the original notice will not be finalized, and that all current APHIS-approved me-thods of identification may be used as official identification until further notice. This was supposed to have gone into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
    APHIS continues to believe that RFID tags will provide the cattle industry with the best protection against the rapid spread of animal diseases and will therefore continue to encourage the use of RFID tags while rulemaking is pending.
    An official eartag is defined as an identification tag approved by APHIS that bears an official identification number for individual animals. Under the current regulations, eartags may be used as official identification, and both visual-only metal and plastic tags, as well as RFID tags are current options. The animal disease traceability (ADT) regulations for cattle apply only to sexually intact beef animals over 18 months of age moving in interstate commerce, cattle used for exhibition, rodeo and recreational events, and all dairy cattle. The regulations permit brands and tattoos as acceptable identification if the shipping and receiving States agree and group/lot identification when a group/lot identification number (GIN) may be used.
    Ethan Lane, National Cattlemen’s Beef Associa-tion’s vice president of government relations, says NCBA is supportive of USDA’s efforts to encourage disease traceability and RFID efforts. He appreciates USDA’s commitment to continue to pursue moving forward on implementing the adoption of RFID use and continuing to accommodate cattle producers’ concerns on how this can be done safely as well as protect data while still having the information necessary to lock down any outbreak threat.
    APHIS will continue to share news and information about efforts related to ADT and the use of RFID tags, and there will be an opportunity for public comment during the rulemaking process.

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