WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2014 – The Agriculture Department is proposing to ease identification requirements for cattle being moved across state lines while ensuring that federal or state inspectors have access to records they need during a disease outbreak.

A proposed rule being published in the Federal Register on Friday would revise a number of regulations on stockyards, auction barns and other livestock marketing facilities.

The rule, developed by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), would allow cattle and bison to travel interstate without official identification if they are shipped to no more than one approved livestock marketing facility and then directly to a slaughter plant. All other livestock are generally required to have official ID when moved across state lines.

Cattle and bison also could be shipped interstate without an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection, or ICVI, when they are moved directly to a livestock marketing facility and then to slaughter.

A separate provision of the rule would specify that federal and state inspectors can look at records and receipts held by marketing facilities that relate to pest detection, control or eradication efforts. The facilities would have to maintain records of receipt, distribution and application of ID devices and USDA-approved backtags.  

Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA, a cattle producers group, said the proposed rule attempts to address problems that have cropped up since USDA released new animal ID requirements in 2013.The animal ID rules were developed in the wake of the nation's first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, a decade earlier. 

There have been reports of delays at farms waiting for a veterinarian to complete the ICVIs so cattle could be shipped out of state, he said. The additional handling of the cattle can cause them to lose weight – and value, he said.

Bullard said R-CALF would support the ID waiver provision but may have concerns about allowing APHIS access to facility records. “We will look at this closely to ensure the provision does not infringe on the livestock marketing facility’s right to operate without undue interference from the federal government,” he said.

The Livestock Marketing Association had no immediate comment.