Local farmers slow to be herded into animal identification system

VIRGINIA - An animal identification system to make the food supply safer launched a year ago, but it hasn't gotten very far.

Only 19 animal handlers in Suffolk and Isle of Wight, James City, York, Gloucester, Middlesex and Mathews counties have signed up in the first phase of the voluntary federal program.

Many locals are "less than excited" about the National Animal Identification System of 2004, said Dwight Doggett, an Isle of Wight farmer who raises cattle.

"We have reservations because the program has never been outlined for us," said Doggett, who farms near the county courthouse complex.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture program aims to track where animals come from - an essential step in stopping the spread of dangerous diseases from entering the food supply, said Glenn Rountree, Isle of Wight's Virginia Cooperative Extension agent.

"It's a safety net - for farmers, the country, everyone," he said. "This isn't Big Brother. This is for human safety, and it has an added benefit for farmers, to protect their own farms and animals."

The first phase of the program would give an identification number to every location that keeps, handles or sells livestock or flocks. That includes everything from farms to the family that owns a pet horse, from auction blocks to veterinary offices, Rountree said.

The second phase is identifying each animal - except for hogs, fish and poultry, which will be grouped together - with a number, like a person's Social Security number, that will be clipped to the animal's ear. The agriculture department would track animals every time they change hands.

Source: DailyPress
calendar icon 22 February 2006
clock icon 2 minute read
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