AGRICULTURE Ohio farmers asked to register animals for tracking purposes

COLUMBUS (AP) -- Farm animal owners in Ohio are being asked to register their farms or properties with the state agriculture department as part of the National Animal Identification System.
Agriculture officials say the system could one day help them track animals that test positive for mad cow disease and other illnesses.
Thirty-seven states already participate in the voluntary program set up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Animal owners in Ohio who register on a Web site maintained by the agriculture department will be assigned an identification number. Eventually, animals or groups of animals also will have identification numbers.
When an animal is sold or mixed with other animals, the move would be reported to the government. States now use sales records and other documents to track animals, which takes more time.
Gary Wilson, head of Ohio's livestock-identification program, said he hopes farmers will cooperate so a mandate will not be needed.
Some states have passed laws to require animal owners to register.
Farmers have concerns about the cost of the program and whether their information will be released to the public, said Adam Sharp, director of national affairs for the Ohio Farm Bureau.
Farmers also don't want to be liable for tainted meat or other problems that were not their fault, said Joe Logan, president of the Ohio Farmers Union.

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