Congressman Steve King says the U.S. has to get a livestock I.D. system in place quickly or loose key foreign markets to competitors, like Canadian cattle producers. King arrived in Canada last Friday, six hours after confirmation of a case of Mad Cow Disease in the U.S. King and six other members of Congress — most of whom are on the House Ag Committee — scheduled the trip to examine Canada’s procedures on livestock handling and the manufacture of animal feed. King has also been looking at the animal I.D. system Canada plans to have in place in 2006. “The things we saw gives me more confidence in the safety of Canadian beef and the processes and practices that they have,” King says. “They are ahead of us in the animal I.D. system considerably and we need to get caught up.” King says the Canadians tell him that within 10 months, every animal in Canada will have an eartag that contains a computer chip that emits a radio frequency. That chip will provide information that will allow folks to trace the animal’s whereabouts all the way back to its birth. King says it means the Canadians may beat U.S. livestock producers to the Japanese market. “In a way, it is a race to Japan and that’s the opening, the gateway to the Asian market and this positive case of BSE that we had confirmed on Friday in the U.S. slows down our negotiations with Japan and there’s a risk that the Canadians will open that market before we do,” King says. King, a Republican from Kiron in western Iowa, plans to introduce a bill in Congress on Friday that calls for quick installation of a national livestock identification system in the U.S.
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