Cattle Ranchers Scared of New Animal Identification System

June 7, 2006 -- Posted at 5:23 p.m. CDT

MOUNT PLEASANT, AR -- A voluntary farm identification program has started in Arkansas that would help identify livestock and poultry in the state, but not all producers are on-board with the program.

The initiative is part of a National Animal Identification System that was started to try to head off agriculture terrorism.

Once in place, the system can identify, within 48 hours, all premises and animals that have potentially been exposed to a foreign or domestic animal disease.

Some cattle ranchers in Region 8 are concerned about what this means for them. Lee Huff and her husband have a small cattle ranch in Region 8.

"I think everybody should be afraid of having a microchip in every animal, even if it is, at this point, starting out with horses, cattle, swine, sheep, and goats," said cattle rancher Lee Cook Huff.

A voluntary system has started in Arkansas, but nationwide this plan could be mandatory by 2009.

"People have to worry that the government is going to know exactly what you have, whether you want to be protective or not, and that in itself is scary," said Huff.

Huff has another primary job, that raising cattle is for her retirement. She says she and her husband do all right, but if this happens that may all change.

"We're not going to be able to make it. There's going to be a lot of people that go out of business, I'm sure," said Huff.

"It's going to cause a lot of small producers to go out of business. They're not going to be able to survive it. I think cost is going to go up to the point that they're not going to be able to survive it," said Boyd Huff.

"They're saying it is because of disease control. I think it's another way to get their hands in our pockets," said Lee Cook Huff.

The new system requires that a small microchip be placed in a cows ear that way the cattle can be tracked more easily.

"It's going to cost God knows how much money to put that kind of equipment in each cow," said Huff.

The plans are still in the testing phase for this new system. The Huff's say their next step is to contact their Arkansas senator's and congressmen to voice their concerns on the issue.