OMAK, Wash. (AP) -- Cattle brands have been a hallmark of the West, and many ranchers are resisting a push to trade them in for newer ways of tracking animals.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been trying for years to develop a program that would allow regulators to pinpoint animals' location with 48 hours of a disease outbreak. Countries like Canada and Australia have been touting their programs to advantage in the competition for export markets.
The USDA's final proposal for a mandatory program is due this summer. It's leaving it up to states to decide how livestock will be tracked, but it's pushing low-cost ear tags.
Western ranchers argue brands are a permanent mark, while ear tags can fall off when cattle graze in brush, next to fences or in harsh weather.