USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has extended the public comment period to April 19 on a proposal requiring electronic identification for the interstate movement of certain cattle and bison.

Under the Jan. 18 proposal, ear tags on adult cattle moving across state lines would need to be both visually and electronically readable.

Official records of movement would also need to be entered into a tribal, state or federal database. APHIS would have access to the records.

The traceability changes aim to strengthen the nation’s food supply by improving response time for significant animal health outbreaks. According to USDA, electronic livestock identification would allow farmers and ranchers facing a disease outbreak to “get back to selling their products more quickly; limit how long farms are quarantined; and keep more animals from getting sick.”

The proposed change would affect about 11% of the nation’s cattle population, which is about 100 million head.

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The public is encouraged to review the proposed changes and submit comments. Specific comments regarding the impacts of the rule on regulated communities and ways APHIS can assist through the program’s implementation are requested.

“The key to protecting U.S. livestock health, producers’ livelihoods, and the U.S. economy in an animal disease outbreak is swift detection, containment, and eradication of disease,” said USDA’s APHIS in a statement.

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