The U.S. Department of Agriculture is holding what it calls listening hearings on a proposed animal identification system.

The USDA is getting an earful in the Tri-Cities.

Cattle ranchers from across Washington State spoke up at the federal hearing at TRAC today.

The ranchers say the National Animal Identification System isn't needed, and its cost would drive many small ranchers and farmers out of business.

The USDA says the program would mainstream the tracking of livestock, and would prevent the spread of disease among animals and into the food chain.

But the president of cattle producers of Washington State, Wade King, says if the federal government wants to prevent disease, start at the borders.

"They're letting animals in, and then they want to trace the animals after they've co-mingled with ours," King says. "If we have better border security we would prevent the introduction of the disease to the animals."

King says Washington State's livestock tracking system is already doing the job, and he says local ranchers shouldn't be penalized for other states not having effective tracking systems.

The USDA will hold hearings nationwide throughout the summer, recording all the comments. The Secretary of Agriculture could decide early next year whether to go through with the program.