USDA pulls mandatory RFID rule… for now


Carrie Stadheim, The Fence Post 

November 1, 2019


The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Oct. 25, that the agency was no longer planning to enforce a policy requiring the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags in the immediate future.


Belvidere, S.D., rancher Kenny Fox said he thinks USDA will continue to pursue a mandatory RFID policy in the days to come, but that USDA’s current plans have come to a halt.


In April 2019, USDA published a “factsheet” outlining its timeline for the disallowance of metal bangs tags and other metal clip tags as “official” identification for sexually intact breeding cattle that travel interstate.


On Oct. 4, R-CALF USA and four of its members filed a lawsuit against Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and his administrator for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Kevin Shae, alleging that the two officials violated U.S. law by attempting to mandate the use of RFID eartags beginning January, 2023.


On Oct. 9, 2019, President Donald Trump issued two executive orders relating to federal agencies. One order called on federal agencies to follow the rulemaking process before imposing burdens on Americans.


On Oct. 25, 2019, citing those executive orders, USDA issued a statement saying the April factsheet was “no longer representative of current agency policy,” and that “APHIS has decided not to implement the requirements outlined in the April 2019 Factsheet regarding the type of identification devices that USDA-APHIS will regard as official eartags and the dates by which they must be applied to cattle.”


Harriet Hageman, an attorney with the New Civil Liberties Alliance, who filed the suit on behalf of R-CALF and the rancher plaintiffs, said even though she is pleased with USDA’s withdrawal of their April policy, the suit is currently going forward.


“Neither the USDA nor the Department of Justice has filed anything with the court, so I don’t know what they intend to do,” she said. A response to the suit is due 60 days after the Oct. 4, filing date, Hageman said. “They could answer the complaint, file a motion to dismiss, or file a motion for judgment on the pleadings.”


USDA APHIS spokesman Joelle Hayden said the silver metal National Uniform Eartagging System (NUES) eartags continue to be official identification tags and will be provided to accredited veterinarians as needed, and that USDA hopes to encourage the use of more RFID tags in the future.


“Producers and veterinarians may continue to purchase official RFID tags as they have been doing. APHIS is exploring funding options for official RFID tags,” she said.