USDA Halting RFID Eartag Mandate

by Courtney Kibblewhite

USDA announced it will not finalize a plan put forth by the Trump administration to approve Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags as the official eartag for interstate movement of cattle, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will use the rulemaking process for future actions on RFID tags.

APHIS said this means that all current approved ID methods can be used until further notice. The agency said they will “continue to encourage the use of RFID tags” while rulemaking is pending as they believe the tags provide the “best protection against the rapid spread of animal diseases.”

AHPIS first proposed making RFID tags the official identification method for cattle and bison in April of 2019. R-CALF USA filed a lawsuit against the USDA alleging that the RFID mandate was unlawful. Within weeks, the agency withdrew its mandate.

USDA in July 2020 had issued a notice seeking public comment on making RFID the only ID devices approved for cattle and bison laying out a timeline of no longer allowing the official USDA shield to be used on metal or other tags that did not have RFID components starting January 1, 2022, and would make RFID tags the only official ID tags effective January 1, 2023.

R-CALF called the APHIS decision to not implement the mandate a victory. In formal comments submitted in October, R-CALF argued that APHIS’ mandatory RFID notice was unlawful and the only way the agency could change current law was to conduct a formal rulemaking process.

“Today’s announcement is good news for U.S. cattle producers as it means the impending threat of a costly RFID mandate is now removed, but we must not stop defending the rights of producers because it’s clear the agency fully intends to continue efforts to force this costly mandate upon America’s independent cattle producers,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

“We are pleased that APHIS is coming to the realization that it must follow the law when considering how best to provide for animal identification and traceability. Mandating RFID requirements through an illegal process doesn’t serve anyone in the livestock industry, least of all our cattle and bison producers,” said Harriet Hageman, attorney with New Civil Liberties Alliance who filed the lawsuit on behalf of R-CALF.




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