Despite the creation of the National Animal Identification System in 2004 in an effort to streamline animal disease control, "many of the issues and concerns that were initially raised by producers, such as the cost, impact on small farmers, privacy and confidentiality and liability, continue to cause debate," said USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Because of the resistance to the program, a USDA-APHIS "listening tour" concerning the implementation of animal ID tags began May 14 to get feedback from stakeholders and will conclude June 1 in Loveland, Colo., according to the USDA-APHIS Web site.

Small farmers and hobby ranchers have tended to oppose the ID tagging system because of the cost, which a USDA study estimated to be up to $228 million annually.

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Larger industrial farms and food processors, including Tyson Foods Inc., have supported the system as some already operate under strict requirements.

"We support the principles of the U.S. Animal Identification Plan and encourage rapid adoption of a premises ID system," Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said in an e-mailed statement to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

However, Mickelson said the system should be accurate, affordable, confidential and compatible with programs used in Canada and Mexico.