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2009 USDA Listening Sessions Public Comments

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Recording of Wendell Berry's statement at recent USDA NAIS Listening Session held in Kentucky.

Testimony of Wendell Berry at Kentucky NAIS “Listening Session”
May 22, 2009

Listen to Wendell Berry's Comments

Transcript of Comments

The need to trace animals was made by the confined animal industry – which are, essentially, disease breeding operations. The health issue was invented right there. The remedy is to put animals back on pasture, where they belong. The USDA is scapegoating the small producers to distract attention from the real cause of the trouble. Presumably these animal factories are, in a too familiar phrase, “too big to fail”.

This is the first agricultural meeting I’ve ever been to in my life that was attended by the police. I asked one of them why he was there and he said: “Rural Kentucky”. So thank you for your vote of confidence in the people you are supposed to be representing. (applause) I think the rural people of Kentucky are as civilized as anybody else.

But the police are here prematurely. If you impose this program on the small farmers, who are already overburdened, you’re going to have to send the police for me. I’m 75 years old. I’ve about completed my responsibilities to my family. I’ll lose very little in going to jail in opposition to your program – and I’ll have to do it. Because I will be, in every way that I can conceive of, a non-cooperator.

I understand the principles of civil disobedience, from Henry Thoreau to Martin Luther King. And I’m willing to go to jail to defend the young people who, I hope, will still have a possibility of becoming farmers on a small scale in this supposedly free country. Thanks you very much. (applause, cheers)

Not very NAIS

New rule means some won’t participate at fair

By Victoria A.F. Camron | Longmont Times-Call

Cassidy Younggreen, 13, of Broomfield will not be sending any goats to the Boulder County Fair this year because of a new requirement to register the animals and farms in the National Animal Identification System. Lewis Geyer/Times-Call

LONGMONT — To enter her children’s goats in this year’s Boulder County Fair, Kellyjo Younggreen would have to register her Broomfield farm with the federal government.

So, even though Cassidy, 13, and Ryan, 11, won 10 awards at last year’s fair — not counting the awards Cassidy won for her rabbits — the family won’t be competing at the Boulder County Fairgrounds this year.

For the first time, the county fair is requiring all entrants for livestock competitions — except rabbits and dogs — to have premises identification numbers, or PINs.

Premises registration is the first step in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Identification System. When a property owner, such as Younggreen, registers for a PIN, she must provide contact information; tell what operations are conducted on her property, such as production, exhibition or slaughter; and tell what species she keeps on the property.

NAIS is designed to enable a quick response to any animal-disease emergency and is a voluntary program — unless you are involved in 4-H and want to compete in a county fair in Boulder, Adams or Larimer counties, or in the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo. Then, premises registration is required.

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A Lesson In NAIS for the USDA

Kentucky High School Teacher, Keith Ashley, Gives USDA Officials A Lesson on NAIS during the USDA Listening Session, May 2009.

State cattle group opposes mandatory ID program

By Robert Pore
[email protected]

Dwindling support for a National Animal Identification System (NAIS) has one Nebraska livestock organization calling on state livestock producers to reject the idea of making the program mandatory.

State producers will have an opportunity on Tuesday to speak their minds about the future of a National Animal Identification System as the U.S. Department of Agriculture has added Nebraska as one of its stops on a national listening tour gathering information on the pros and cons on NAIS.

According to Dave Wright, president of the Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, his organization is urging ranchers and farmers from across the state to attending the Nebraska NAIS meeting.

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N.A.I.S., Friend and Foe

By Lynn Stuter
June 30, 2009

On June 6, 2006, published an article I wrote concerning the National Animal Identification System or NAIS. In that article, some of the history of NAIS was touched on as well as the international component and the fact that NAIS was the brainchild of both government and private agricultural industry.

In a document entitled Summary and Future Action, from the LCI National Livestock Identification Symposium, 1994, we find some of the players instrumental in bringing NAIS about:

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Tracked: The NAIS Controversy

By Maria Magaldi

Introduction: My name is Maria Magaldi. I'm a junior in high school from Connecticut. This year my U.S. history teacher gave my class a chance to pick a topic for our research papers as long as we used primary sources. I keep a small farm of Nigerian Dwarf goats and I was curious about a program another goat keeper said she was "forced into" called NAIS. I decided to research it and educate myself as it could potentially affect me and my goats in the future. As I researched and discovered more and more about the National Animal Identification System, I became furious and decided, after I wrote my paper, that I wanted to share what I found with the world.

It is the 21st century and the U.S. is one of the major world powers. Having used Roosevelt's "big stick" to control Cuba, the Philippines and the surrounding U.S. territories, the government is now turning to its own citizens to wield a new stick—a microchip smaller than a penny. With the approval of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these microchips—marketed mainly by the Digital Angel Company—are being injected into animals across America. The purpose is to further implement the USDA's brainchild, the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). This program is being promoted as a way to enable the government to track the movements of animals in order to more quickly eradicate a disease. Although NAIS could potentially help officials contain a widespread livestock epidemic, it is nevertheless unconstitutional as its operation infringes on animal owners' constitutional rights and its possible mandatory establishment would be medically and ethically harmful.

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Jolley: Five Minutes With The NAIS Issue

Almost two months ago USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack made a rash statement.

"Today, I am asking farmers and stakeholders to engage with USDA in a more productive dialogue about NAIS.  Now is the time to have frank and open conversations."

It was billed as a seven city listening tour to find common grounds for the eventual establishment of a NAIS program.  It quickly developed into a one-sided affair.  Vilsack, a long-time proponent from his days in Iowa's Governor's office, witnessed a firestorm of disapproval as small farmers and ranchers carpet-bombed the issue at every location.  He had to feel like a citizen of downtown London during the early days of WWII.  Unfortunately, in American politics, there are no underground "tubes" to escape the blitzkrieg.

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Texas meeting:

Missouri and SD meetings:

DeLauro zeroes out funding for animal ID

Article from Feedstuffs

By Sally Schuff

New funding for the troubled National Animal Identification System (NAIS) was dropped today from the fiscal 2010 spending bill. Agricultural appropriations subcommittee chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn), who has been a strong critic of how the U.S. Department of Agriculture has handled millions of dollars spent on the program, said "continued investments into the current NAIS are unwarranted" until USDA comes up with a better plan.

"After receiving $142 million in funding since fiscal year 2004, (USDA's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service) has yet to put into operation an effective system that would provide needed animal health and livestock market benefits," she said.

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NAIS: Detriment to Texas agriculture

Article from Bandera County Courier

By Glyn Wrigh

tIn 2005, with support from Texas Farm Bureau (TFB), Southwestern Cat­t­le Raisers Association (TSCRA) and Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA), the Texas Legis­lature passed HB 1361 giving the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) the power to implement the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) in Texas.

NAIS is a federal program designed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to identify all livestock animals by tracking them to their original premises in the event of disease outbreak.

Although USDA advertises that the program is voluntary at the federal level, they are encouraging states to make the program mandatory at the state level.

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Missouri Farm Bureau member opposes mandatory NAIS

Article from The Marshall Democrat-News

Missouri Farm Bureau reiterated its support for a voluntary and not mandatory National Animal Identification System at the Jefferson City listening session held by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The session was part of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's 13 scheduled listening sessions to be held throughout the country as his department looks to implement the NAIS.

Glen Cope, a beef producer from southwest Missouri and chairman of the Missouri Farm Bureau's Beef Advisory Committee, submitted comments saying, "Farm Bureau nationally and in Missouri believe participation in a National Animal Identification System should remain the choice of each farmer and rancher."

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Missouri Crowd Opposed to Mandatory NAIS

USDA hosts listening session in Show-Me State.

Article from Farm Futures

By Jason Vance

More than 200 farmers and ranchers from seven states gathered in Jefferson City, Mo. Tuesday for a listening session on the National Animal Identification System hosted by USDA. The session was the first of an additional six sessions that were added to the original eight listening sessions that have been held over the past month. It was also the most attended session, drawing producers from six states. Almost everyone who spoke during the session was against a mandatory national animal identification system.

"This affects all of us and I'm glad that Missourians are standing up, it's great," said Nathaniel Barr of Wisconsin. "We didn't get to talk in Wisconsin; there's no meeting in Wisconsin. Why didn't we get one in Wisconsin? Seven hours we drove to come down here, that's how important I think it is."

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Letter from Langdon: Surround Sound on NAIS

Article from Time

Back from hearings on the Department of Agriculture's proposed animal-tagging system, Richard Oswald provides an earful.

By Richard Oswald

NAIS stands for National Animal Identification System. According to USDA, the purposes of the animal tagging program are to increase the United States' disease-response capabilities, limit the spread of animal diseases, minimize animal losses and their economic impact, protect producers' livelihoods, and maintain market access. 

Administered by USDA, NAIS consists of three main phases; first is premises ID, second will be animal ID, and third will be traceability.

NAIS mandates that radio frequency tags (RFID tags) or chips be attached or implanted directly onto commercial livestock. Tags would be read or scanned by "readers" to create a computerized record of every animal -- hog, goat, cow, horse, chicken, turkey, elk, deer, or any other commercially produced livestock.

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Jolley: Mr. Vilsack, Were You Listening?

Article from Cattle Network

It was billed as a multi-city listening tour, announced May 15 by USDA Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack.  He must have been laboring under a delusion if he thought it would lead to a general consensus and an acceptance of NAIS. 

It has lead to a general consensus, though.  In a word or two NO NAIS!  That was the label on several hundred people attending the listening session in Jefferson City, Missouri.  It was the message pounded home again and again by every speaker except one.  Defending NAIS was Dr. David Hobson of the USDA's vet services.  He said hello and ducked.

His "hello" was a statement that "This session is to listen to you.  We all play a role in food safety.  To do that we need healthy animals.  We need this program to identify diseased animals and eradicate disease."

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Colorado NAIS Listening Session

Mike Callicrate gives testimony at the Colorado NAIS Listening Session

David Pfrang's NAIS testimony 6-09 - KCA strongly opposes NAIS for the following reasons...


David Pfrang's NAIS testimony 6-09 - KCA strongly opposes NAIS for the following reasons...


Tue, 9 Jun 2009 06:41:13 -0600


Mike Callicrate



I am David Pfrang and the recent past president of the Kansas Cattlemen’s Association.  I am a livestock producer, and I am speaking on behalf of the KCA.  We strongly oppose NAIS for the following reasons:

NAIS is disease management and not disease prevention.  Disease prevention, like closing the border to diseased foreign cattle, must be in place before NAIS should be considered. 

There’s too much chance for information to be misused.  The federal database has not been proven to be secure, and producers do not want their information leaked.  Producers have little faith that the USDA will keep ALL of our information confidential.  

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NAIS~~~ the Deterioration of Earned Respect

by Darol Dickinson

Trailer with nooses

The entry of the USDA Colorado listening session was jammed with sign covered livestock trailers. Members of the Colorado Independent Cattle Growers Assn. were pawing the dirt about the possible mandatory NAIS. Well over 90% of the speakers were opposed to the feared program. Many had driven a full day to be able to speak 3 serious minutes to USDA staff.

Nearly 5 years ago I attended my first county NAIS listening session. I heard a detailed presentation by a professionally trained USDA state director. About 40 people crowded into a small room in a government building during the dark of an early winter evening. I knew the state NAIS director and had been in an Ohio Cattlemen's Assn. policy committee meeting with him. I had a high respect and appreciation for his fairness, knowledge and livestock experience.

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Letter from Langdon: I'd Like to Testify

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is holding 'listening sessions' on its plan to tag farm animals. Yonder writer Richard Oswald drives to Jefferson City, Missouri, to testify.

By Richard Oswald

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is holding what it calls “listening sessions” around the country about its plans for a National Animal Identification System, or NAIS. The system would require farmers and livestock raisers to tag each of their animals with an identifying number. (The system would require radio frequency tags on each animal.) The USDA says that by identifying each animal, the agency will be able quickly to “trace an animal disease to its source.”

Today, the USDA will hold a listening session in Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri, and Yonder correspondent Richard Oswald will be there to give his testimony about NAIS and American agriculture. Oswald opposes NAIS — a position widely held by rural residents, as you can see from stories about “listening sessions” in Louisville, Austin, Loveland (CO) and Pasco (WA). Below is the testimony Oswald (author of the “Letter From Langdon”) prepared for today. See a story about the Missouri hearing here.

The NAIS program has stirred one of the largest protest movements we’ve seen in rural America and among urban consumers. Richard explains how the proposal to tag every farm animal has created a national furor.

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Review of the National Animal Identification System

Statement of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on May 20, 2009

The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) requests that USDA halt implementation of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Contrary to its stated purposes, NAIS will not address animal disease or food safety problems. Instead, NAIS imposes crippling costs and paperwork burdens on family farmers, which may lead to loss of these farms, increased consolidation of agriculture, and more reliance on foreign imports. This will ultimately lead to greater disease problems and reduced food security. This Statement will discuss some of the many problems with NAIS, and then suggest alternatives for improvements in animal health, food safety, and food security.

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Nebraska Farm Bureau wants voluntary animal ID system

Article from Brownfield Network

by Ken Anderson

One of the Nebraskans providing comments at this week’s National Animal ID System listening session in Loveland, Colorado was Sherry Vinton of Arthur. Vinton is a rancher and a Nebraska Farm Bureau board member.

Vinton told USDA officials that Nebraska Farm Bureau supports a voluntary national animal ID system—or NAIS. She said Nebraska 's livestock producers understand the importance of animal disease control and traceability, but that NAIS has raised numerous issues, specifically cost, confidentiality, education, and liability.

Vinton said says she was one of 52 testifiers at the Loveland listening session, and all but four opposed a mandatory system.

Wendell Berry and Community Farm Alliance Protest NAIS in Kentucky

Are they listening?!
USDA N.A.I.S. "Listening" Session, Louisville, Kentucky, May 22, 2009
By Stephen Bartlett
Community Farm Alliance, Posted May 27, 2009
Straight to the Source

It is not everyday you get the opportunity to garner good free press while speaking out forcefully in a broad alliance against the follies of a hijacked department of the government, in this case the U.S. Department of Agriculture!   But Friday, May 22 was just such a day for the Community Farm Alliance (CFA) and their allies in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.

That warm, sunny day at the Crowne Plaza hotel wedged in between the Louisville International Airport, the State Fair Grounds and the Chang Roller Coaster, some regional USDA staffers held a public hearing regarding the National Animal Identification System (N.A.I.S.), a program now in its fifth year of being promoted by corporate backers and their compliant allies inside USDA.  This so-called "listening session" was one of a modest string of such hearings being held in various regions of the U.S. for the new Secretary of Agriculture, Vilsack, to supposedly take the temperature of USDA clients, America's "farmers", on this issue.  The temperature thus far? More or less a roller coaster of passionate denunciation by angry farmers and consumers, some driving hours and hours for the opportunity to vent against N.A.I.S.

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R-CALF: Producers, Public Urged To Stand Firm Against NAIS

Article from The Cattle Network

Billings, Mont. - Although R-CALF USA is pleased the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced locations for six more National Animal Identification System (NAIS) listening sessions to allow more opportunity for public input, the group remains suspicious of the agency's motives.

"These listening sessions aren't going well for USDA, as the agency is running into much more opposition to NAIS than it ever bargained for," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. "But rather than announce that NAIS will be withdrawn and the remaining sessions used to develop a strategy to prevent, control and eradicate diseases, USDA persists in addressing only NAIS. We think USDA's plan continues to be to glean from everyone's comments anything good that is said about NAIS so the agency can compile a report to forge ahead and implement NAIS after making only minor tweaks to the program. 

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A Fund Member-Farmer A Mother's View Fund Board Member
Farmer's Comments Auction Barn Owner A rancher's comments

Tom Maurer Jonas K. Stoltzfus William Taylor Reil
Barbara Steever Maureen Diaz Maureen Diaz
Barbara Steever    


Karen Nowak, Brookfield, NY - May 22, 2009

Re: Docket # APHIS-2009-0027

National Animal Identification System

I have owned, bred and shown horses for over 40 years.  I also owned and managed a horse boarding facility for 10 years.

First and foremost, NAIS is NOT a one-size-fits-all program!  Not between species or even within the various species groups themselves.  NAIS was designed by and for the benefit of large agricultural corporations who export food and the tagging/software technology corporations, who have bragged to their stockholders about the windfall profits they will realize if NAIS is implemented.

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Kathy Smith - Report on the USDA/NAIS Listening Session, Pasco, Washington,  May 18, 2009  

Before the meeting began, Bert and I introduced ourselves to Dr. Dave Morris, USDA vet and NAIS program manager from Fort Collins, CO.  We reminded him of our first meeting at the Utah Cattlemen’s Association conference in 2006.  At that time, he confided to me, then a Utah state government worker, that the hardest thing about the NAIS program would be to get individuals to register their premises.  When I asked him about it again, on May 18th, he agreed that that was probably right.  I commented, “You’re not going to like living in this country either.”  His reply to me was, “I know.”

Another offline comment that I heard from Dave Morris and other USDA staffers was, “Congress is giving us our marching orders.”  In other words, my hunch is that USDA and Congress will use each other as scapegoats in the NAIS issue.  Congress will say that USDA told them the NAIS was necessary for disease traceability and food safety.

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Kentucky Family Farmers and Allied Grassroots Groups Protest National Animal Identification System at USDA Public Hearing

Small Farmers Say Big Business Gets the Long End of the Stick as USDA Stacks the Deck

Louisville, KY (May 22, 2009) The Community Farm Alliance today charged that the agenda for the upcoming listening tour for the National Animal Identification System is biased against small family farmers and will do nothing to improve animal health or food safety. Members of the Community Farm Alliance are especially outraged that the USDA's proposed system favors large corporate agri-business and factory farming. Ultimately, full implementation of NAIS would annihilate family scale farms, which are the majority of farms in Kentucky.

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Sentinel Morning Update: Farmers oppose USDA plan

Article from The Sentinel

To say Bob Boyce opposes the USDA’s plan for an animal identification system would be oversimplifying his anger.

Owner of Lil Ponderosa Enterprises, a 350-acre farm in Lower Frankford Township, Boyce manages a closed herd of 100-125 purebred Black Angus cattle.

If the Department of Agriculture has its way, he will be required to bear the time and expense of having all of his cattle enrolled in the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

First proposed by the USDA in 2004, the agency says the NAIS is designed to help producers and animal health officials trace the movement of diseased or exposed livestock or poultry within 48 hours when animal-health events or terrorist threats occur in the United States.

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PA Listening Session Overview by Kathy Cook, PA

The first hour the only people listening were those in attendance.
We had to listen to introductions and an overview by Dr. Jerry Dick and then while presenting a power point slide show and reading it,  they went into detail how NAIS will "protect" us.


  •     NAIS & Animal Disease Control
  •     Traceability Business Plan Standards and & Priorities
  •     Benefit-Cost Analysis

90% of those in attendance that had the opportunity to speak were against NAIS. The 10% for NAIS were with an organization, Penn State Professor, Gregg Shultz,  Sate Vet, an Academic Chemist from PA. 

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Pasco Washington Synopsis by Carol Osterman

The basics were the same as the one in Harrisburg.  78 people signed in, I counted 31 people making statements 26 were definitely against, 2 were for but only if voluntary and 3 were definitely pro-NAIS.  The 3 for NAIS were the state veterinarian, a chip maker and a dairy farmer.  At least 4 reporters were there including a camera from the local NBC affiliate and a writer for Associated Press.  The article can be found here

My overall feelings are that USDA wants NAIS, or at least feels that it has to do it because congress wants it.  The Listening sessions are being done so that USDA can say that they "listened" to our concerns.  No one from USDA really answered any of the difficult questions.  Saying that it was not their area of expertise.

I did find it interesting that there were county sheriffs on site.

For the record by Barbara Steever

I've owned horses for 33 yrs and I know a pile of horse shi* when I see it.

First, I am not a stakeholder, I'm an owner.

NAIS will never be acceptable because it violates the Bill of Rights, and those rights are non-negotiable. By what authority does USDA, or even Congress, violate the First and Fourth Amendments?

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Consumers, Farmers Make Themselves Heard as USDA’s National Animal Identification System (NAIS) Listening Tour Continues 

Pasco, Austin and Birmingham Sessions See an Overwhelming Majority Of Speakers Opposing NAIS 

Falls Church, Virginia  (May 21, 2009) – More consumers are stepping up to complain about the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) as the U.S. Department of Agriculture continues its national listening tour.
During today’s stop in Birmingham, Alabama, the tour heard from 30 people, 28 of whom spoke out against NAIS with only two speaking in favor of it. 

It was much the same in Austin, Texas yesterday where the tour heard from some 64 people, 58 of whom spoke against any NAIS or advocated for a voluntary, market-driven program only.  The results were similar during the session in Pasco, Washington, on Monday where 26 out of 31 speakers voiced opposition to the program. 

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Critics Turn Out for USDA Hearing

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture were in Austin today. They were seeking public comment on a proposed National Animal Identification System. As KUT’s Mose Buchele reports, the proposal met with some pretty stiff opposition from Texas ranchers, farmers and consumers.

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Letter and Testimony by Susan Blasko

I attended a USDA Listening Session in Harrisburg last Thursday. My number came up in the lottery, so I was able to deliver my Public Comment orally which I did among whoops and hollers, cheers and clapping. After I finished I turned around to go back to my seat, and discovered I had a standing ovation! If the USDA is truly "listening", the message they got that day was a resounding "NO!"

Read Susan's Testimony Here (pdf)

First NAIS Listening Session by USDA/APHIS by Darol Dickinson

Harrisburg, Pa—the first of a series of NAIS Listening Sessions was held today at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, Harrisburg, Pa. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stated, “I encourage individuals and organizations to voice their concerns, ideas and potential solutions about animal identification.” And—voice concerns they did!

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