ST. PAUL -- A new federal program is going into effect that will make it easier to track diseases among livestock crossing state lines.

The United State Department of Agriculture is implementing a new identification system that will give each animal a number.

The new program is mandatory but more flexible than a previously existing set of rules that was voluntary for farmers. The older voluntary system faced widespread criticism from farmers who say it did not do anything to stop diseases.

Each state will now be allowed to decide how to ID their livestock, while the federal government will only deal with tracking once the animal crosses state lines.

Bethany Hahn is the communications director for the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. She says this is a good system for locating and preventing the spread of disease.

Hahn says that this idea is nothing new. She says many farmers already have some type of tagging system of their own. She says this is another good step for the agriculture economy.

Hahn points to the bovine tuberculosis outbreak in Minnesota a few years ago as a prime example. The new system could help limit the spread of a disease like this in the future.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health says the change was needed "to eliminate outdated language, clarify the Board’s authorities, address current topics and consolidate rules into a new, easy-to-understand chapter."