Attend a national conference, talk with your university and Extension folks, or listen to leading feeders, packers, and our retail, restaurant and export customers. You get the impression national ID is a foregone conclusion.

Age and source verification is similar to pre-conditioning and vaccinating calves; it's simply something the market is demanding. And the government, after having to embrace the biosecurity threats this industry faces, will mandate it if the industry doesn't implement it.

However, there's a giant disconnect between cow-calf producers, as a whole, and our customers on this subject. The cow-calf side sees it as a government-driven program that poses grave threats and considers it far from a foregone conclusion. How there can be such a huge difference in perspective is a fair question.

I'd put the blame on a lack of leadership. USDA left it up to the industry, setting only set deadlines for implementation steps. While great in theory, it left a vacuum, with a predictable result -- very little momentum.

The McDonald's, Wal-Marts, and our foreign customers also have deferred on the issue -- stating what they want but offering no input on how to get there. The result is we've struggled to find a clear direction.

While the most common concerns from producers are over privacy and cost, there's also an inability to conceptualize the details of a complex but still theoretical and ambiguous program. And that isn't surprising.

There also are legitimate concerns the industry is moving toward adoption of an electronic ID system and defacto standard that may be far from ideal, perhaps even inferior to other technologies.

Some leadership is seriously needed. The difference between the two spheres is staggering and must be addressed sooner rather than later. We must bear in mind that the January 2008 and January 2009 implementation dates are looming larger, regardless of how anyone feels about using the information infrastructure that's being created.
-- Troy Marshall