National ID is one of those unique issues, where not even its supporters are overly excited about it. First, even though the government did something it rarely ever does - relinquish power to private enterprise so producer information and confidentiality could be maintained - it's still a government program. That instantly raises legitimate concerns over whether it will ever be effectively implemented and whether it will happen in a least-cost, least burdensome manner.

I'm inherently biased against any government-mandated or directed programs. I understand USDA is seen by many producers as an impediment rather than an asset, but I'm amazed any government agency would step back to essentially let industry and private enterprise develop a program that will vary by species and potentially even state to state as they build a system for their own unique set of circumstances. Of course, the task was so monumental and inherently intrusive that part of the reason they were willing to give up control was they also wanted to give up responsibility.

Secondly, national ID by itself is a cost, and it's designed for a very specific reason - traceback in time of an emergency. Yes, there's a case to be made that it's actually cheap insurance. The ability to contain a disease like foot-and-mouth disease without totally devastating the industry would pay for the cost many times over, but this is always a difficult sale. After all, no one thinks about tying a rain slicker to the back of their saddle on a sunny day until they get caught six miles from the trailer in a downpour.

The economic value will come from the infrastructure created, but the benefits will be ancillary and not be equally enjoyed. So while it may be a great thing for the industry as a whole to improve product quality, management and system efficiency, it also promises to change the competitive landscape. And change is never welcomed.

Whether national ID occurs on schedule or not, and whether it's implemented effectively or not, are legitimate and serious questions that need to be addressed. Ironically, the government has really only written one decision in stone - that is whether we will have national ID; the rest is up to us.
-- Troy Marshall