Op-Ed: EID Ear Tags – Government Intrusion is Getting Expensive

by Colter Brown

By Congresswoman Harriet Hageman

The lengths to which Joe Biden will go to control our lives knows no bounds. We have been burdened with ‘rules and guidance’ in education, energy production, gun ownership, and even in our choice of home appliances – and now this administration’s costly and unconstitutional overreach is affecting our food production and private property rights.

In January, the unelected bureaucrats within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) once again proposed a ‘rule’ mandating that all cattle and bison producers begin using Electronic Identification Device (EID) eartags, while also announcing that they will no longer recognize traditional traceability methods such as brands, backtags and tattoos. This is just the latest abuse by the current administration, proving once again that they view the separation of powers doctrine as nothing more than a nuisance to circumvent, rather than the foundation of our Republic.  In short, it is the job of Congress – the Legislative Branch of our government — to write and pass laws. The Executive Branch is merely tasked with implementing such legislation as written and has no authority to create legally binding mandates out of whole cloth.  Despite this fact, and in their relentless drive to put pressure on independent cattle and bison producers, the USDA is again attempting to implement an EID requirement that will have a tremendous impact on livestock operations. Producers who do not comply will lose their access to interstate markets, thereby putting cattle and bison ranchers in Wyoming in grave peril of going broke.

The USDA’s EID mandate whipsaws ranchers on both ends, with noncompliance restricting their ability to sell their livestock, at the same time that the very cost of such compliance is financially prohibitive. The USDA itself currently estimates that the proposed rule will cost producers an additional $26.1 million per year, a number that significantly downplays the actual economic impact of the mandate.  The USDA reported in 2013 that a full EID mandate could cost as much as $2 billion dollars. It is thus obvious to anyone outside the DC beltway bubble that there is more to the program – and significantly more expense – than just the actual eartags. Knowing this, the agency bureaucrats have intentionally avoided providing a legitimate cost estimate, ignoring the cost of the EID readers, computers, labor, and the other components necessary to make the tags even functional, along with the expenditures required to maintain these systems. The proposed rule also currently exempts livestock under 18 months of age (estimated to be around 88 million head of cattle).  The cost to producers will thus increase on a yearly basis as more livestock mature and become subject to the rule. 

Cost, however, is not the only problem with this rule.  The insanity is also evidenced by the fact that there will be a human visual requirement for tracking the EID tags. This means that ranchers will still be tasked with writing down literally thousands of EID numbers to keep track of the livestock. It’s unclear how this could possibly be better than the current tracking methods that have been successfully used for well over a century – but it sure is more expensive and time-consuming!

Contrary to the USDA’s claims about the EID mandate being limited to the eartags, such tags don’t really function without all the related equipment, and it is much more likely that sale barns, feed lots, and similar businesses will need to have the technology (readers and software) in place. It is thus obvious that USDA’s sole purpose in focusing the cost estimates on the eartags alone is to avoid including the full cost of the program.  Once the equipment and labor costs are included, the actual financial impact of the program comes into focus – and it substantially exceeds the $26.1 million included in the rule. 

There are two other significant concerns with the rule. First, the creation of electronic records and USDA’s proposal to maintain them for five years will expose ranchers to invasive records requests from members of the public who are out to destroy them. Not only would the government be surveilling and tracking ranchers, but environmental groups who attribute “climate change” to livestock production could obtain information about the ranchers’ business to use in their attacks on their livelihoods also. Second, this is another attempt by big business to advance vertical integration of the beef supply chain. Smaller independent operators will struggle to bear the cost and maintain the infrastructure to implement the mandate, likely putting them out of business. The loss of independent operations will further consolidate the cattle and meat industries. This latter point could explain why the American Farm Bureau is actively supporting this government overreach, while organizations such as the Wyoming Farm Bureau strongly oppose the rule. 

It is telling that the biggest advocates for mandatory EID are the biggest ranches in the country, the biggest packers in the country, and the eartag manufacturing companies.  That is quite the unholy alliance, and those of us who care about our independent producers, our consumers, our communities, our food supply, and our way of life are rightfully concerned as to why USDA is doing their bidding.  

While I am not opposed to ranchers voluntarily using EID tags, I am most definitely opposed to the USDA adopting any kind of mandate that forces compliance through extralegal lawmaking – a practice that violates our Constitution and undermines our very form of government.   

Battles like this are exactly why I ran for Congress in the first place. To combat the overreach of the USDA and out-of-touch, unelected bureaucrats in DC. I have offered an amendment in the upcoming Ag Appropriations bill that would prohibit funds from being used to finalize or implement the proposed rule.  We must use every tool available to stop this type of federal overreach and agency abuse.  Defunding the program will help to do that. 

While we all know that the government is always trying to “fix its last solution,” there is nothing for the USDA to “fix” when it comes to livestock identification and traceability.  Our ranchers produce the very best, highest quality, safest meat in the world and forcing them to spend massive sums of money to implement an EID program is unnecessary and outside of USDA’s authority.  The better adage to use here is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  I sure wish the federal government would learn that lesson. 


Congresswoman Harriet Hageman is serving her first term as Wyoming’s at-large Member in the U.S. House of Representatives. She serves on the House Committee on the Judiciary, the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, and the Committee on Natural Resources.

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No one you will ever hear from again

This is a garbage post. President Biden is not responsible for all these things.
I had just joined this group but will quickly correct that mistake!


If we ever have an outbreak of FMD in the US, you might eat a lot of those words. Those EIDs would help save a lot of cattle from being unnecessarily euthanized. If you don’t agree, go ask the farmers in England. We are way behind other countries on animal ID. If you can’t afford an ear tag for your cattle, maybe you shouldn’t be in the business.

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