Family farmers, ranchers and their advocates balked at the $14 million price tag that would fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Animal Identification System if the legislation passes.

About 80 organizations signed a letter sent to all members of Congress this summer, asking that it eliminate funding for NAIS. The farmers and ranchers, including organic farmers and activists, claim the voluntary program to identify farm animals through microchipping or radio-tagging does not keep food safer because most contamination happens during processing in plants and feedlots. If it became a mandatory program, as proposed, it would threaten the livelihoods of small family farmers and ranchers because they would be required to pay fees for each animal, some farmers said.

Those in favor of the program, including the USDA and more than 40 members of Congress, say NAIS will help protect the nation's food supply because it will provide quick tracking of infected animals and promote speedy recalls. The move also would restore consumer confidence in the nation's food supply.

–A.C.