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U.S. launches voluntary program to track cattle+
[March 02, 2006]

U.S. launches voluntary program to track cattle+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)WASHINGTON, March 1_(Kyodo) _ A U.S. industry-led nonprofit consortium Wednesday announced the launch of a voluntary program to track movements of cattle with a national database.

"The database system will...allow animal health officials to trace individual animals to their source within 48 hours in the event of a disease outbreak or other events that affect animal health," the U.S. Animal Identification Organization said.

The U.S. Agriculture Department is considering making such a tracking system mandatory from 2009, but is inclined to settle with the voluntary industry-led program for now amid lingering opposition among ranchers.

The move is partly aimed at addressing concerns in Japan, which reimposed an import ban in January, and other major trading partners about U.S. measures to deal with mad cow disease, including a lack of a national tracking system.

"An increasing number of domestic and international buyers are requesting source and age verification of the livestock they purchase, and having database in place is essential to maintain the value of U.S. products and help producers stay competitive," the consortium said.

The consortium, which developed the system together with ViaTrace LLC and Microsoft Corp., plans to bring the database online in the third quarter of 2006, allowing individual producers to input data on their herds directly.

Japan was the largest importer of U.S. beef before imposing its initial import ban in December 2003, when the United States discovered its first case of the brain-wasting disease.

Tokyo had lifted the two-year-old ban in December on condition that imports would be limited to meat from cattle aged up to 20 months with brains, spinal cords and other specified risk materials removed before shipments.

It was reimposed on Jan. 20 after backbone material was found in a veal shipment in violation of the bilateral accord.

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