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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

RANCHERS SAY COUNTRY-OF-ORIGIN LABELING MORE IMPORTANT THAN NATIONAL ANIMAL IDENTIFICATION PROGRAM

BILLINGS, Montana, August 16, 2004 –-/WORLD-WIRE/--
A proposed national animal identification program is drawing criticism from farmers, ranchers and consumers, who say mandatory country-of-origin labeling is more important.

“Country of Origin Labeling, not animal identification, is the top priority of consumers, farmers, and ranchers, and it should be USDA’s top priority, too,” said Dan Teigen, a Montana rancher speaking for the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC).

In a statement prepared for the hearing, Teigen said the National Animal Identification Program does not respond to the most immediate problems. “The reason Congress and USDA are in a hurry to get this going is because USDA could not find all of the cows which came with it from Canada,” Teigen says.

“If we had Country of Origin Labeling, U.S. consumers would be able to choose whether to buy beef from animals imported from countries with known BSE problems, and we could have sold beef labeled as from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the BSE-free United States to our export customers.”

Teigen said USDA should build on existing programs that already identify animals and allow them to be traced back in an animal disease outbreak. “In Montana we have branding and brucellosis tags for cattle, and the scrapie program for sheep,” he said.

“National animal identification should build on existing animal health and ownership brand identification programs, rather than duplicating and complicating them.”

WORC is a regional network of seven grassroots community organizations with 8,750 members and 50 local chapters in seven western states.

CONTACT:
John Smillie, WORC staff: (406) 252-9672
Dan Teigen, Northern Plains Resource Council: (406) 428-2444

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