Defending the rights and broadening the freedoms of family farms and protecting
consumer access to raw milk and nutrient dense foods.
USDA held NAIS listening sessions in 2009. Click here for the related action alerts, press releases and reports and testimonies from the farmers and consumers who have attended.
In February 2010, Secretary Vilsack announced that the USDA would drop its plans for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and re-focus its efforts on a "new framework" for animal traceability. The Secretary stated the new framework would apply only to animals that cross state lines and would encourage the use of low-tech methods of identification.
The USDA's announcement sparked widely divergent reactions. Groups representing independent farmers and local consumers applauded the USDA's decision. But the proponents of NAIS, namely the Big Ag and Big Tech groups, expressed disappointment and issued statements about the horrible things that could supposedly happen without a centralized ID system. These pro-NAIS entities quickly re-grouped and announced plans to adopt "model regulations" (i.e. NAIS-type regulations) at the State level.
But the issue is also still far from over even at the federal level. Despite USDA's announcement, Big Ag and Big Tech are pushing for a more expansive federal program. And key bureaucrats who developed NAIS continue to work within the agency, and they do not seem to have changed their views despite the announcements from the top.
AUSTIN — Opponents of a national animal registry say their efforts have been buoyed by a ruling in favor of an Amish farmer who refused to register his property under Wisconsin’s mandatory premises registration law.
The ruling presents another setback in efforts by agribusiness and technology companies to implement a national animal registry that would penalize farmers, said Judith McGeary, executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA), based here.
The ruling came after U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the agency was abandoning the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) in favor of a new framework.
The meat industry is up in arms over a federal decision to abandon a $120 million livestock-tracking system designed to limit the economic and human-health impact of animal-disease outbreaks.
Meatpackers worry that a narrower program proposed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack could exacerbate worries abroad about U.S. meat exports, while state officials are concerned the federal government is creating a new regulatory burden for which states have scant resources.
"It will be a headache," said Tony Frazier, state veterinarian of Alabama.
USDA Announces that the NAIS Will by Replaced with New Animal Tracking Rules
The USDA has announced that its much-criticized National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is no more. In its place will be new rules that will focus only on tracking livestock animals used in inter-state trade and commercial operations. The new rules will evolve over the next several months and the USDA is requesting input from affected parties.
The Associated Press misreported this morning that “The USDA Abandons Stalled Animal ID Program.” A press release issued last Friday by the USDA hints at another fate.
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced that USDA will develop a new, flexible framework for animal disease traceability in the United States, and undertake several other actions to further strengthen its disease prevention and response capabilities.
USDA announces plans for new program to trace animals, to be administered by states
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday it has abandoned a program that was intended to trace the movement of farm animals around the country but garnered little support from farmers.
Instead, the department announced plans for a new, more flexible program to be administered by states and tribes to strengthen disease prevention and response. The program will only apply to animals moved in interstate commerce and will encourage the use of low-cost technology.
The following quotations concerning the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) are from Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group.
The USDA's announcement to fold their tent on the current NAIS proposals is an all too rare victory of the nation's family farmers over the political power of corporate agribusiness.
Secretary Vilsack, in this case, definitely listened to the will of the people. The decision by the USDA to regroup, and withdraw current rulemaking, was made after a series of spirited national meetings with vocal farmers.
Radical Homemaking: Why Both Men and Women Should Get Back In Kitchen
Long before we could pronounce Betty Friedan’s last name, Americans from my generation felt her impact. Many of us born in the mid-1970s learned from our parents and our teachers that women no longer needed to stay home, that there were professional opportunities awaiting us. In my own school experience, homemaking, like farming, gained a reputation as a vocation for the scholastically impaired. Those of us with academic promise learned that we could do whatever we put our minds to, whether it was conquering the world or saving the world. I was personally interested in saving the world. That path eventually led me to conclude that homemaking would play a major role toward achieving that goal.
It Appears NAIS Enforcement Gets Underway in Wisconsin
By R-CALF USA Animal ID Committee Chair Kenny Fox, Posted by R-CALF USA | opednews.com
Billings, Mont. – It appears that in the state of Wisconsin, which has mandated the first prong of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) National Animal Identification System (NAIS) through agency rule making, prosecution of individuals opposed to NAIS has begun.
On Sept. 23, 2009, an Amish gentleman named Emanuel J. Miller, Jr., was taken to Clark County Court in Neillsville, Wis., for an evidentiary hearing on complex civil forfeiture for failing to register his premises. The case immediately moved to the first stage of trial. Miller and his father, as well as their church deacon, testified as to their objections to being forced to use the NAIS premises identification number (PIN). As USDA has proudly proclaimed in many glossy brochures, premises registration is the “first step” in the NAIS, and the Wisconsin Amish have become quite aware of this.
On Oct. 21, 2009, in Polk County, Wis., R-CALF USA Members Pat and Melissa Monchilovich are going to trial for the same charges of complex civil forfeiture. Pat and his wife raise cattle in Cumberland, Wis., and have failed to register their property as a premises with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection, as Wisconsin's Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) requires by regulation.
This is the tip of the NAIS iceberg. One could look upon Wisconsin as the sentinel case in the enforcement measures necessary to bring this nation's citizens into compliance with NAIS.
Even if the gentle folk at the USDA can't see the handwriting on the wall, the more politically astute in the House and Senate are quite capable of reading the bright red neon signage. First, Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Ag appropriations sub committee, cut NAIS funding back to a chilly absolute zero.
The Senate originally proposed a paltry $14. 6 million -- nothing more than a rounding error in the big bucks often tossed around inside the beltway - but Senators Jon Tester (D- MT) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) joined hands across the aisle and offered an amendment that slashed that number by half. If passed, NAIS funding would become an almost insignificant piece of the $23. 6 billion agricultural spending bill proposed for fiscal 2010.
Their amendment also limited use of those meager millions, slapping some serious handcuffs on Ag Secretary Vilsack's failed effort to gain any industry support during his early summer cross-country listening sessions. Their reasoning?Congress had spent $140 million on the program and "gotten next to nothing."
R-CALF and the Western Organization of Resource Councils, groups representing the rabidly anti-NAIS grassroots livestock producers, stood as one and applauded the Senate action. A standing 'O. 'Hurrah's from the hinterland. WORC would have broken out the proverbial six pack for a party with their R-CALF friends just down the street in Billings, MT. They'll keep the Bud on ice until the Senate agrees with DeLauro and zeroes out all funding, though, before dancing on the patio down at Tiny's Tavern,
WORC's Dan Teigan thanked Senators Tester and Enzi, for "taking the lead against this expensive, intrusive, and unworkable program. The conference committee should zero out all funding for the animal identification program. You don't just want to slow down a runaway train. You want to stop it."
R-CALF USA President Mad Max Thornsberry issued a surprisingly calm statement. "NAIS epitomizes what government should not do: it should not impose costly and highly intrusive regulatory burdens on private industry and private citizens without first considering alternatives, without first establishing a critical public need, and without first determining the effect that a significant government mandate would have on the culture and economy of the U. S. livestock industry."
Teigan need not worry about that runaway train. The House and Senate just tore up the tracks. Doc Thornsberry can rest assured he's helped defend the culture and economy of the U. S. Livestock industry. The actions of the House and Senate are a survival technique learned by most politicians; when attending a listening session, just shut up and listen. Those are voters doing the talking.
Chuck Jolley is a free lance writer, based in Kansas City, who covers a wide range of ag industry topics for Cattlenetwork. com and Agnetwork. com.
Future of animal ID system unclear
Some animal owners express opposition during public meetings on the NAIS
Facing resistance from food animal owners and pressure from Congress, federal agriculture officials are reconsidering how the national animal disease tracing system is structured.
Officials with the Department of Agriculture said they heard substantial support for animal disease traceability during a series of public meetings but many animal owners indicated concerns. Cost, privacy, bureaucracy, liability in the event of a disease outbreak, and the religious implications of such animal identification are behind ongoing opposition to the department's National Animal Identification System.
The USDA has not gotten enough food animal producers to participate in the NAIS to achieve the desired animal tracing ability, and members of Congress have expressed frustration over funding the program. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack delivered this message to the stakeholders in animal agriculture who attended a May 21 meeting in Birmingham, Ala., according to a meeting transcript.
The Senate’s proposal to provide $14.6 million in funding for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) was cut in half Monday; Sens. Jon Tester (D., Mont) and Mike Enzi (R. Wyo.) asked for the cut in an amendment offered during floor debate on the $23.6 billion agricultural spending bill for fiscal 2010
.The amendment also limited use of the funding to USDA rulemaking on the beleaguered program, which failed to gain any industry support during a series of listening sessions held by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The funding issue now goes to a conference with the House bill, which zeroed out NAIS funding at the request of House agricultural appropriations subcommittee chairwoman, Rep. Rosa DeLauro. DeLauro said during debate on the House bill that Congress had spent $140 million on the program and “gotten next to nothing.”
R-CALF and the Western Organization of Resource Councils, groups representing grassroots livestock producers were quick to praise the Senate action, although WORC said it would have preferred to see the Senate follow the House and zero out funding.
Court Dismisses FTCLDF's National Animal Identificaion System Lawsuit
On July 23, 2009, the District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the Legal Defense Fund's and its Plaintiff members' NAIS case against the USDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture. The Court's ruling stated that NAIS is a voluntary program at the federal level and, because of this, any alleged injury suffered in the case was caused by the State of Michigan and not by USDA. Because NAIS is voluntary at the federal level, according to the Court, any claims lie against the State of Michigan. The Court rejected Plaintiffs' argument that USDA, through various memoranda of understanding and federal funding, had coerced Michigan into implementing NAIS at the State level.
The Court also dismissed Plaintiffs' case against the State of Michigan, stating that a suit against Michigan under state law in federal court was barred by the 11th Amendment. Further, Michigan could not be sued under federal law in federal court because federal law does not apply to Michigan. Rather, any injury suffered by Plaintiffs was caused by Michigan acting under state law, for which the remedy lies in state court. Consequently, all claims against Michigan were dismissed as well.
The Fund is disappointed in the Court's decision. The Court did not allow the Fund and its Plaintiff members to present evidence of coercion on the part of USDA which would have demonstrated that (1) it is USDA that is causing Plaintiffs their injury (thus allowing claims against USDA) and (2) Michigan was subject to federal law (thus allowing claims against Michigan). Because they did not present such evidence of coercion, according to the Court, Plaintiffs could not prove their case.
The Fund is considering its options at this point, including the filing of an appeal, the filing of a request to reconsider the evidence and the law, or bringing a case in state court against Michigan. A motion to reconsider must be filed on or before August 6th.
USDA Closing National Animal Identification System Listening Tour Comment Period on August 3
Article APHIS News Release
WASHINGTON, July 27, 2009--The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will close the comment period for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) listening tour on Monday, Aug. 3, 2009. Comments received on or before
Aug. 3 will be considered.
“While the roundtables and public listening sessions are complete, I encourage those of you who still would like to share your concerns and suggestions about NAIS to submit your written comments by Aug. 3,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the listening tour, whether in person or through written comments, for your input on this important topic. We look forward to considering all the feedback before deciding on the future direction of USDA’s traceability efforts.”
The NAIS listening tour was an effort to gather feedback and input about NAIS from producers and stakeholders. The tour included roundtable discussions, public listening sessions and written comments. The information and ideas gathered through these methods will assist the Department in making a decision about the future direction of animal traceability in the United States.
USDA launched a feedback page on the NAIS Web site. Producers and stakeholders are encouraged to visit www.usda.gov/nais/feedback to provide their suggestions and comments before Aug. 3. Notice of this action is published in today’s July 27 Federal Register.
National animal ID plan stumbles
PROGRAM ON HOLD: House bill cuts off spending for system
WASHINGTON — Congress is on the verge of putting on hold a national system to track livestock, telling the Obama administration it will not fund the effort until the U.S. Department of Agriculture does a better job implementing it.
The House passed a spending bill Thursday that cuts off funding for the National Animal Identification System, even as USDA officials take suggestions from farmers and others who will be affected by the program, which is aimed at halting the spread of diseases that can contaminate food.
Lawmakers are grappling with several issues, including whether the voluntary system should be made mandatory and, if it remains voluntary, how to boost participation beyond the 35 percent or so of producers nationwide who take part. A group opposed to the system has sued the USDA, asking a federal court to halt the program's implementation.
USDA Urged To Heed Producer Testimony and Scrap The National Animal Identification System
Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund Says Enforcing Current Regulations Is Sufficient For Disease Traceability
Falls Church, Virginia (July 9, 2009) – The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to actually listen to and honor the comments offered by the nation’s livestock producers during its multi-city listening tour on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and scrap the program.
“A common thread that ran through much of the testimony was that existing prevention and tracking programs for animal diseases together with state laws on branding and the existing record-keeping by sales barns and livestock shows provide the mechanisms needed for tracking any disease outbreaks,” said Pete Kennedy, acting president of the Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.
Australian Beef Association Chairman, Brad Bellinger has released an independent audit of cattle producer NLIS Database accounts.
The Agribusiness Online Report illustrates that NLIS still relies on our National Vendor Declaration paper trail for accurate trace-back. On its own, NLIS is hopelessly misleading despite Australian Cattle Producers spending $370 million on tags and reading charges with a further $40 million invested by State and Federal Governments.
The independent survey confirms failings identified in the December 2006 findings of the Price Waterhouse Cooper Report prepared for Minister McGauran at the instigation of the ABA.
FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — Minnesota cattle producers are bristling at the idea of the U.S. Department or Agriculture imposing the National Animal Identification System on the livestock industry and of further government intrusion in their business.
“The biggest solution in agriculture is to get the government out of it,” says cattle producer Jerry Enderline of Fergus Falls, Minn. “Out of the grain business, out of the livestock business — completely out.”
Enderline is a strong supporter of free trade and says he hasn’t been able to make a profit feeding cattle for 10 months. He says he resents government intrusion into his industry and the fact that he does not have the final word on some issues regarding is own operations.
HORSE SPRINGS, N.M. — Wranglers at the Platt ranch were marking calves the old-fashioned way last week, roping them from horseback and burning a brand onto their haunches.
What they were emphatically not doing, said Jay Platt, the third-generation proprietor of the ranch, was abiding by a federally recommended livestock identification plan, intended to speed the tracing of animal diseases, that has caused an uproar among ranchers. They were not attaching the recommended tags with microchips that would allow the computerized recording of livestock movements from birth to the slaughterhouse.
“This plan is expensive, it’s intrusive, and there’s no need for it,” Mr. Platt said.
It's been no secret that Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the chair of the House Appropriations Ag Subcommittee, wants a mandatory National Animal Identification System. Last week she emphasized that message telling USDA and the livestock industry to agree to a mandatory program or the program will be zeroed out in the 2010 fiscal year budget. The program has already been reduced to zero in the Ag Appropriations measure approved last Thursday by the subcommittee.
Livestock producers from as far away as Kansas filled the atrium at the Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn hotel Thursday, showing poster illustrations of their cattle brands, examples of their existing animal identification system.
The group of 300 to 400 objected to the proposed electronic National Animal Identification System, which opponents said will be too expensive and not solve the problem of diseased animals coming from other countries.
The Agriculture Department is holding listening sessions across the country on the system, and South Dakota Stockgrowers Association president Larry Nelson said about 90 percent of those attending oppose NAIS.
That was the resounding message that area ranchers delivered to federal agriculture officials here to gather their opinions on a proposed mandatory National Animal Identification System.
More than 300 ranchers packed into a meeting room at the Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn for a U.S. Department of Agriculture listening session on the proposed NAIS. The system would use a combination of identification devices and computerized records to track livestock in the event of a disease outbreak.
Of the approximately 60 people who spoke Thursday morning, only two voiced support for the proposed mandatory system of animal ID.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is a federal program which enjoys the support of large corporate agribusiness farms. It consists of premises registration, as well as animal identification and tracing. It remains voluntary, but some states have taken measures to mandate certain elements of the program. There has been strong opposition from small farmers and ranchers who view NAIS as a threat to privacy and property rights. Full implementation would also be expensive and could put many out of business. NAIS is unfair and by all accounts, would be ineffective. It is yet another way to squeeze out small family farmers and further monopolize America's food production.
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union will have representatives on hand at the USDA listening session on June 1 at the Larimer County Fairgrounds to express opposition to the financial burdens the National Animal Identification System will put on family farmers and ranchers.
"We're expecting quite a crowd," said RMFU President Kent Peppler, a Mead, Colo., farmer. "If the USDA makes registration in this program mandatory, it will be a nail in the coffin for small producers."
The USDA is moving to make NAIS mandatory. In April, the USDA released a cost-benefit analysis produced by Kansas State University. "Their own cost analysis makes it clear that small producers, such as cattle growers with fewer than 50 head, will bear the brunt of the costs," Peppler said.
BILLINGS, Mont. — Inherent to every competitive industry is proprietary information. If one competitor gains access to the proprietary information of another, then any competitive advantage associated with that proprietary information is at best lost. At worst, the acquirer of that proprietary information could use it to eliminate competitors. Nowhere in the U.S. economy is proprietary information more important to ensuring competitiveness than in the multi-segmented live cattle industry and beef industry.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Identification System, however, would grant the four largest meatpackers access to proprietary information held by the thousands of U.S. auction yards and video auctions, as well as cattle feeders. NAIS requires every cattle producer to affix a 15-digit identifier on each animal, which associates each animal to the “premises” of the farmer or rancher who raised the cattle and who sells them to feedlot owners through such markets.
Missouri livestock producers will now have the opportunity to voice their opinion regarding the implementation of the National Animal Identification System. USDA has scheduled additional public listening sessions this month in Missouri and other key livestock states across the nation.
USDA seeks to engage stakeholders and producers to hear not only their concerns about NAIS, but also find potential or feasible solutions to those concerns. The information and ideas gathered will assist Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in making decisions about the future direction of animal traceability in the United States.
Washington -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will host additional listening sessions regarding the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) in California, Florida, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina and South Dakota.
In 2004, APHIS began implementing NAIS, an animal traceability system that would enable producers and animal-health officials to better respond to animal disease events. Not all stakeholders embraced the system.
These meetings are meant for producers to address concerns and explore possible solutions for an animal identification system.
Cost of implementation, impact on small farmers, privacy and confidentiality, liability, premises registration, animal identification and animal tracing are all likely discussion topics.
If ever there was a good idea gone bad, it is the National Animal Identification System.
In fact, if you were to write a textbook on how to turn people against something, it would be titled "NAIS: Fear and Loathing in the Countryside."
All along, small producers expressed their dismay at a system that would make them register their premises no matter whether they had a single goat or a herd of 1,000. That they were required to report any movement of their animals added to the sense of "big brother" watching them.
It is a statement of the obvious that folks who make their living on farms and ranches are independent-minded and have a healthy distrust of big government. The idea that the government was collecting a file full of information about every farm or ranch with one or more animals seemed even more menacing.
Opponents of USDA's National Animal Identification System far outnumbered supporters at the eight animal ID listening sessions held so far. It turns out that's not by accident.
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance Executive Director, Judith McGeary, confirms her group is working with the National Family Farm Coalition and other small farm advocacy groups to encourage anti-NAIS turnout at the listening sessions, and she is pleased with the results thus far. "The simple fact is that small farmers, people who own a few animals, consumers, we are the majority by a huge percentage, in terms of number of people. And we've been loud enough and strong enough that USDA has agreed that it needs to, at the very least, give the appearance of paying attention to those concerns."
When the international trade portion of your resume is as thin as Ron Kirk’s — you do remember that Kirk, the former mayor of Dallas, is now U.S. trade representative, don’t you? — it’s likely you’d stress personal ideals over professional accomplishments when talking about your new job.
Kirk did just that in a May 22 speech to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. As Barack Obama’s trade ambassador, Kirk explained, he’d be guided by “a raging sense of pragmatism and a practical sense of urgency.”
Golly, I’m pretty familiar with the English language but I have no idea what that gibberish means. Maybe it’s Texican for “Hey, I’m two months into this job so don’t complain until I actually do something.”
HARRODSBURG, Ky. -- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told a group of Kentucky farmers yesterday that he supports a controversial livestock tracking system that some producers fear will be made mandatory.
Vilsack defended the goal of the program, to help control outbreaks of animal illnesses like mad cow disease, as a way to protect exports.
While he stopped short of saying it needs to be mandatory -- noting opinions among various producers are widespread -- he said nothing to suggest it's going away.
R-CALF suspicious of USDA motives.The initial seven listening sessions scheduled on the National Animal Identification System wraps up on Monday, but USDA has announced there will be six more sessions to allow more public comment. The schedule for these new listening sessions is June 9, Jefferson City, Mo.; June 11, Rapid City, S.D.; June 16, Albuquerque, N.M.; June 18, Riverside, Calif.; June 25, Raleigh, N.C., and, June 27, Jasper, Fla. Locations of the sessions is yet to be announced.
While R-CALF is pleased that more listening sessions are being held, R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard questions the agency's motives for adding the new sessions.
Ranchers and others who will be affected by the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) are reviewing the Kansas State University benefit-cost analysis released in April 2009. One area of concern to the cow-calf operator is the added cost of tagging animals and what effect the tagging requirements will have at the auction barn, since a majority of cow-calf operators use local auction barns to sell their animals.
The study estimates costs for tagging at $3.30 to $5.22 per cow for a 50-head herd, depending on the current identification practice.
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.
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.
PASCO, Wash. — Five years after the federal government started a program to trace livestock in the event of a disease outbreak, just 36 percent of ranchers are taking part.
U.S. Department of Agriculture officials found out why Monday, when 75 Western livestock producers gave them an earful during a meeting. The "listening session" was one of seven scheduled around the country in May and June to hear ranchers' concerns, with the goal of increasing participation in the program.
The NAIS program would tag farmers' and ranchers' animals.
The federal government has proposed a program to identify and track farm animals, and the move has some local ranchers and farmers unhappy.
At a U.S. Department of Agriculture hearing Wednesday, more than 100 farmers and ranchers voiced their concerns, many telling the government to butt out. The hearing was part of an effort by the USDA to get feedback from food producers in Central Texas and across the country. "We're talking about a program that would be very costly and very intrusive," Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance Director Judith McGeary said. "You're talking about anyone who owns, you know, a couple of backyard chickens having to report their movements to the government."
Across the county as Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack meets with stakeholders regarding the controversial National Animal Identification System (NAIS), groups have been reviewing and voicing their concerns over the accuracy of the data reported in a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In a synopsis of the 400-page report titled “Benefit-Cost Analysis of the National Animal Identification System,” the USDA states that this document provides “a condensed, high-level summary of the detailed report and focuses more on the results than the technical methodologies used by the research team.”
Judith McGeary, executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, heads one of the groups which has followed NAIS closely and is concerned about the accuracy of the study.
Using the beef cattle section of the cost-benefit analysis, McGeary e-mailed the following comments May 12 regarding the report.
In an effort to improve food safety in the United States, the Obama Administration has created the Food Safety Working Group to come up with ideas to accomplish that goal. Chaired by Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the group met last week in Washington with representatives of the federal and state governments and the food industry. Wisconsin’s Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Rod Nilsestuen was invited to participate representing states who Nilsestuen says are the backbone of the food safety system. “State and local governments do 90 percent of the food safety regulatory work in the country.”
PASCO, Wash. -- Five years after the federal government started a program to trace livestock in the event of a disease outbreak, just 36 percent of ranchers are taking part.
U.S. Department of Agriculture officials found out why Monday, when 75 Western livestock producers gave them an earful during a meeting. The "listening session" was one of seven scheduled around the country in May and June to hear ranchers' concerns, with the goal of increasing participation in the program.
Those concerns haven't changed much in five years: The cost is too high for small farmers. The regulations amount to bureaucratic suffocation. The program neither prevents nor controls disease. And what's in a farmer's pasture is nobody's business.
Vast Majority of Speakers at USDA’s Listening Tour on the National Animal Identification System Say No to NAIS
Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund Says Message to USDA Is To Kill NAIS Not Try to ‘Fix’ It.
Click here for a PDF version
Falls Church, Virginia (May 15, 2009) – Some 100 people attended the kick-off meeting for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s multi-city listening tour on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania yesterday, with an overwhelming majority of them voicing strong opposition to the program.
Farm-to-Consumer acting president Pete Kennedy said that the number and passion of the farmers and consumers speaking out against NAIS at this first stop on the listening tour should cause the USDA to reexamine whether it should be implemented at all.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — If Thursday’s meeting on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) at the Farm Show Complex was any indication, then finding a solution to the question on a workable system is far from over.
Dozens of passionate and at times angry farmers and industry people showed up for the day-long meeting inside the complex’s large banquet room.
While it was the hope of USDA officials to get some consensus on the program, they instead got an earful from people who feel the agency has lost touch with their concerns and feel it will overburden them with paperwork and costs.
Each person was given three minutes to share their thoughts on the program, including one woman who donned a shirt that read “I love my country, it’s the government I’m afraid of.”
FORT COLLINS, CO, May 11, 2009 – Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today held a roundtable discussion with a variety of stakeholders on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). This was the second in a series of listening sessions the USDA will hold throughout the country on the subject so the department can gather feedback and input that will assist the Secretary in making decisions about the future direction of animal identification and traceability in the United States. On April 15 of this year, more than 30 stakeholder groups met with Secretary Vilsack to discuss NAIS at the USDA's headquarters in Washington, DC.
The Real Impacts of the National Animal Identification System on Our Food Supply – and How You Can Make a Difference
Swine flu, salmonella poisonings, massive recalls. With all of the threats to our food supply and health, a nationwide program to safeguard livestock probably sounds good to a lot of people. The USDA has a program tailor-made to increase consumer confidence: the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). But while talking about the need to calm consumers’ fears about the food supply, USDA admits that NAIS is not a “food safety program.” In fact, if you dig a little, you find that NAIS will actually harm food safety. How can a program that sounds so good on the surface actually hurt you? It’s simple: NAIS will destroy your choices about where your food comes from.
This article will first explain what NAIS is and what impact it will have on you, an American farmer, animal owner, or simply consumer. If you care about having a safe food supply, and choice about where your food comes from, then check out the last section, which has information on you can take action in the coming weeks!
The National Animal Identification System was the focus of a joint hearing of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry and the Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and Science and Technology on Tuesday.
Among those testifying was USDA Chief Veterinarian John Clifford, who told committee members that NAIS is the most important information tool needed in a rapid response to an animal disease outbreak.
"To make these decisions we need the ability to quickly and reliably determine what animals are carriers of disease, what animals are at risk and what animals are unaffected," Clifford said.
Yesterday, two U.S. House Subcommittees held a joint public hearing to review the National Animal Identification System to examine the identification system's role in protecting U.S. producers and consumers from the effects of an animal disease outbreak.
The subcommittees involved were the Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry, chaired by Representative David Scott of Georgia, and the Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and Science and Technology, chaired by Representative Yvette Clarke of New York.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack distributed an editorial this week calling for open dialog on the National Animal Identification System:
Members of the Agriculture Family:
The United States has an incredibly prosperous agricultural industry. Our livestock and poultry are among the healthiest in the world. However, even with all the preventative measures the U.S. Department of Agriculture already has in place, animal disease can still strike. A disease event can have far-reaching consequences, impacting more than just farmers with sick animals. A disease event also affects other farmers and the livestock industry through movement and international trade restrictions. Not only do the farmers' communities feel the economic pinch, but so does the entire country.
USDA Announces Location for Listening Sessions on NAIS!
The USDA is holding seven "listening sessions" about the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The NAIS would impose severe hardships on small farmers, and impact anyone who owns even one livestock or poultry animal, even those raising animals for their own food or as pets. While benefiting Big Ag's export market, NAIS could cripple small farmers providing grass-fed meats, eggs, and dairy to local consumers.
Key Congressional leaders have called for a mandatory NAIS, and USDA Secretary Vilsack has indicated that he plans to push forward with some sort of program soon. It's going to take a lot of people speaking up loud and clear to keep a mandatory NAIS from being imposed on every livestock owner in America! These listening sessions are a critical opportunity to get media attention on NAIS and demonstrate the level of opposition to the program.
The dates and cities are listed below. As soon as we have the exact addresses, we will send out another alert. You can also check USDA's website for updates: http://www.usda.gov/nais/feedback
Please plan to come to these meetings! You can have an impact simply by being there and showing that a lot of people are opposed to NAIS!
WASHINGTON, April 30, 2009--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will hold a series of listening sessions on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The meetings will take place next month in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington state.
“USDA needs to hear directly from our stakeholders as we work together to create an animal disease traceability program we can all support,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “I encourage individuals and organizations to voice their concerns, ideas and potential solutions about animal identification, by either attending these listening sessions or submitting comments online.”
Controversy continues to swirl around the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), a USDA/APHIS-controlled registry for livestock and the land where they are kept.
The program, initiated in 2003, was developed as a way to quickly track and eradicate outbreaks of animal disease. By having rapid disease “traceability” in place, NAIS proponents — which includes veterinary associations — claim millions of animals and billions of dollars can be saved when and if disease arises.
While NAIS has been voluntary, sign-ups haven’t been overwhelming. Politicians and government officials are now considering making the program mandatory. This has unleashed a torrent of criticism with privacy issues and the cost to small producers taking center stage.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack held a roundtable discussion Wednesday with a variety of stakeholders representing the full spectrum of views on the National Animal Identification System. The event kicks off a listening tour to gather feedback and input that will assist the secretary in making decisions about the future direction of animal identification and traceability in the United States.
"Much work has been done over the past five years to engage producers in developing an animal identification system that they could support," Vilsack said. "However, many of the issues and concerns that were initially raised by producers, such as the cost, impact on small farmers, privacy and confidentiality, and liability, continue to cause debate. In the spirit of President Obama's call for transparency in government, now is the time to have frank and open conversations about NAIS. We need to work collaboratively to resolve concerns and move forward with animal traceability."
USCA (April 16, 2009) - At the invitation of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) participated in a National Animal Identification System (NAIS) round table held in Washington, DC on April 15. The discussion included a wide mix of industry representatives.
Chuck Kiker, USCA Region V Director and Chairman of the USCA Animal Health Committee delivered constructive criticism of the current NAIS system, suggesting that the agency re-examine several aspects of the program and provide clarity for cattle producers.
The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association opposes mandatory participation in NAIS.
In a five minute oral testimony Kiker addressed USCA’s concerns with NAIS, including USDA’s failure to address privacy and confidentiality concerns; provide clarity for the future of NAIS; produce a credible legal analysis substantiating USDA’s insistence that NAIS is not binding to property and does not harm producers’ property rights; as well as focusing on enhancement of animal disease controls at U.S. borders. Following are excerpts from Kiker’s testimony.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- America’s livestock market operators are skeptical that the current National Animal Identification System (NAIS) plan will maintain the “speed of commerce” in livestock marketing – “an absolute necessity in maintaining a viable marketing system that serves tens of thousands of producers every day.”
Because of those and other concerns, the policy of Livestock Marketing Association, which represents about two-thirds of all registered markets in the U.S., is that NAIS should remain a voluntary program.
That was the message brought by LMA Vice President for Government and Industry Affairs Nancy Robinson to an April 15 discussion on the future of NAIS. The discussion was called by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and held at USDA. Those invited included “the full spectrum of views” on NAIS, USDA said.
by Dr. R. M. Thornsberry, DVM, MBA, President of R-CALF USA
It is important for horse owners to know why NAIS is being forced on the equine industry within the United States. The United States and many other countries signed a World Trade Organization (WTO) treaty in the 1990’s which obligated the first world countries, which had spent literally millions and millions of taxpayer dollars to eradicate contagious animal diseases, to develop a system of individual animal identification. The individual animal identification was demanded by the Organization of International Epizootics (OIE), a WTO world wide governmental agency, tasked with developing trade rules and internationally obligated trade regulations that would force animal and meat trade between countries that had eradicated contagious diseases with those that had not eradicated contagious animal diseases. In other words, the United States, which had eradicated Equine Piroplasmosis in the 1980’s, a tick borne protozoal infection, would, by identifying all equines, be forced to trade with countries that had not eradicated Equine Piroplasmosis. In general, the argument goes something like this: Once you can identify every equine at birth and trace their every movement off the farm from birth to death, a first world country that has spent millions of taxpayer dollars to eradicate Equine Piroplasmosis, can no longer prevent trade with those countries who have refused to spend the necessary resources to eradicate Equine Piroplasmosis.
I was only a toddler back when Reagan proposed Star Wars, but I can imagine how great it sounded at the time. To our country, still gripped by the Cold War and the fear of instant annihilation at the hands of a distant government, it must have sounded great. Even now, people STILL talk about a "missile defense shield" that would protect us from any incoming nuclear strikes, even though most people know the whole plan is bogus. And, bogus or not, it didn't stop us from spending a whole lot of money on it all. So now we are STILL vulnerable to incoming nuclear attacks, protected only by our own diplomatic and intelligence abilities to prevent them. Scary - but what can you do? Throw more money into a bullshit missile defense shield that doesn't work?
It seems to be that NAIS (the National Animal ID System) is the ag equivalent of Star Wars. Here's why...
Pressure is growing again in the US for Congress to make a decision on the US national animal identification system (NAIS) - to make it mandatory or stop the funding for the current voluntary system.
Last week, House of Representatives agricultural appropriations subcommittee chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.) told US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that the NAIS program needed changes - and soon.
During the annual hearing on the President's budget request to fund the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the coming fiscal year, DeLauro noted that for five years and "tens of millions of dollars, (the US voluntary NAIS) has not worked. We have to have a better way of dealing with this," she said.
Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Make Livestock Premise Registrations Voluntary – Says Family Farmers Shouldn’t be Prosecuted for Protecting Their Livelihoods
Abbotsford… Rep. Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) introduced legislation today in Madison that he says will protect the property rights of small family farmers who have recently been taken to court to force them to register their farms with the state. The northern lawmaker’s bill will make livestock premise registrations voluntary, rather than mandatory in Wisconsin.
“At a time when many family farms are struggling to keep the barn doors open, now is not the time for the state to be threatening farmers who refuse to register their farms with a lawsuit,” Suder said. “In an economic crisis where every job counts and every business matters, we should be doing everything we can to protect our farmers, not threatening them with lawsuits that could very well put them out of business.”
An activist's demand to access National Animal Identification System livestock data has been shot down by a federal court.
Attorney and freelance writer Mary-Louise Zanoni of Russell, N.Y., initially filed suit against the USDA in June 2008, demanding that the agency comply with her Freedom of Information Act request to view livestock and premises records collected as part of NAIS.
The lawsuit also asked a federal judge to prevent the USDA from using federal privacy law to shield those records from disclosure.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan rejected the complaint Tuesday, March 31, ruling that the NAIS records in question were exempt from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
Sullivan also ruled that Zanoni lacked legal standing to challenge federal privacy law.
As the controversy of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) continues to divide the agriculture industry, one man is leading a campaign against the program by not only writing letters to congressmen, but also by starting up a Web site and contributing articles he has written.
Darol Dickinson, manager of the family-owned Dickinson Cattle Co. Inc., runs one of the 50 largest registered cattle ranches in the United States, numbering 1,600 registered cattle. He is also involved in livestock marketing, retail meat sales, cattle feeding, and exporting to more than 20 countries.
As proposed, when and if implemented, the National Animal Identification System will allow state health agencies, in the event of a disease outbreak, to trace the movement of an animal back to the place of origin within 48 hours.
The issue of the accuracy of recording each movement of an animal has been questioned and is a concern of cattlemen, including Dickinson.
Representatives of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund argue that a U.S. House subcommittee hearing held last week on the National Animal Identification System was stacked in favor of groups calling for the mandatory implementation of the program.
“There was virtually no representation for organic and local producers or consumers,” says Pete Kennedy, acting FCLDF president — “the very groups that are most negatively affected by NAIS.”
The hearing by the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, was called to review NAIS, which is USDA’s program to electronically track every livestock animal in the country. Although the program is currently supposed to be voluntary, the USDA has been actively working to make it a mandatory program, Kennedy argues.
“The subcommittee’s hearing was just another step in that effort,” he says, noting that subcommittee chairman Rep. David Scott of Georgia and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, both favor making the system mandatory. “USDA was given almost unlimited time to further sell the program,” Kennedy adds.
Congress is considering legislation aimed at making our food supply safer, but for small farmers and ranchers, one such bill looks like another example of big business and big government teaming up to get the little guy out of the way.
Nobody’s written the bill yet, but the idea pushed in a congressional hearing this week was to create a mandatory program that would allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to track every single head of livestock in the country. This would allow the government to track and contain outbreaks of animal infections, supporters argue, protecting consumers from tainted meat.
On the government’s end, this requires a database and tracking hardware and software, plus enforcement. On the farmers’ end, this involves putting a radio-frequency ID tag on every animal, registering every animal and every premises that has animals, and reporting to the USDA all deaths, births, and sales.
The USDA already operates a voluntary program called the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Rep. David Scott, D-N.C., chairman of the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee, advocates making NAIS mandatory for all farmers and ranchers.
U.S. Family Farmers, Ranchers and Consumers Criticize National Aanimal Identification System as Threat to Farmer Livelihoods and Local Food Systems
Congressional Hearing Ignores NAIS Failure to Address Animal Disease and Food Safety Concerns
Washington D.C.(March 12, 2009) – The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry yesterday held a hearing looking at implementation of USDA’s highly flawed and problematic National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Members of Congress repeatedly cited urgent need for the program due to animal disease, food safety and export concerns. However, a wide coalition of family farmers, independent ranchers and consumer groups believe NAIS is a fundamentally flawed program whose costs pose a real threat to farmer livelihoods and will produce no benefits for consumers or food safety.
Judith McGeary, a Texas livestock farmer and president of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, said, “The Subcommittee failed to even acknowledge that four states (Arizona, Kentucky, Missouri, and Nebraska) have already adopted laws barring a mandatory NAIS program, and three more states (Texas, Montana, and Utah) currently have bills filed to do the same thing. The state legislators are listening to what their constituents are saying: NAIS will not improve food safety or animal health, but it will impose significant costs on family farmers, who are the people who provide a secure, local food system. Perhaps the next time Congress holds a hearing to explore why so many farmers refuse to sign up for NAIS, they should ask why states keep passing laws protecting their constituents from a mandatory NAIS program.”
AT first glance, the plan by the federal Department of Agriculture to battle disease among farm animals is a technological marvel: we farmers tag every head of livestock in the country with ID chips and the department electronically tracks the animals’ whereabouts. If disease breaks out, the department can identify within 48 hours which animals are ill, where they are, and what other animals have been exposed.
At a time when diseases like mad cow and bird flu have made consumers worried about food safety, being able to quickly track down the cause of an outbreak seems like a good idea. Unfortunately, the plan, which is called the National Animal Identification System and is the subject of a House subcommittee hearing today, would end up rewarding the factory farms whose practices encourage disease while crippling small farms and the local food movement.
The 2009 omnibus Appropriations bill, HR 1105, passed the House last week; the Senate began consideration of the bill March 2, making appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2009. The bill includes $14.5 million of funding for NAIS, which is significantly less than the amount requested by the USDA for FY 2009.
Representative Obey (D-WI) included a statement in the Congressional Record about the intended uses of the appropriations for the USDA, including timelines and performance goals for NAIS. [Click here for excerpt.] This statement does not mandate NAIS because it is not part of the bill itself. But it implies approval of USDA’s Business Plan and pushes USDA to move forward with implementing it, including the use of existing disease control programs and other coercive tactics to implement NAIS.
Call your Senators and ask that they support an amendment to strip the NAIS funding out of the bill! You can find your Senators' contact information at www.congress.org or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
The good news is that it appears that the provision that would have required the School Lunch Program to buy meats only from NAIS-registered farms did NOT make it into the omnibus Appropriations bill. Thank you to everyone who contacted their Congressmen last summer and fall to oppose that provision! [Click here for Rosa DeLauro’s statement, see page 6]
To read the Omnibus Appropriations bill, go to www.thomas.gov and enter "HR 1105" in the search box. Click the option for "Bill Number" and then hit "search." Rep. Obey's explanatory statement can be read by clicking on the link for "H1653-H2088" under "Note" (towards the top of the page of the search result). [Click here for a listing of content]
The House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry has announced that it will hold a hearing on Wednesday, March 11, on “animal identification programs.” The agenda and list of witnesses is not yet public. Look for an alert as soon as we get more information!
Hidden well behind the spectacular pomp and historic circumstance of inauguration week, the wheels of government continued the relentless grind, oblivious to the party in power at the moment. From deep within the bureaucracy, the USDA moved closer to taking control over every livestock animal and the land on which they roam. With a callousness hardened by expanded majorities, Congress moved closer to taking control over another 2 million acres of land and the resources it contains.
To accommodate a request of the National Institute of Animal Agriculture, a trade association of agri-business and livestock associations, the USDA set out in 2002 to create an electronic tracking system for every cow, horse, chicken, turkey, goat, sheep, pig – 29 species in all – that could pinpoint the location of every animal in the country and, within 48 hours, trace its every movement since birth. This massive project would bring the United States into compliance with the requirements of a little-known sub-agency of the World Trade Organization. Compliance with these requirements opens export markets coveted by the members of the National Institute of Animal Agriculture.
FALLS CHURCH, Va. - (Business Wire) The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund called on the new administration to permanently halt a U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed rule that would effectively mandate the implementation of the first two stages of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) for thousands of Americans.
The proposed rule, entitled the “Official Animal Identification Numbering Systems,” was published by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in the Federal Register January 13. On Tuesday, the Obama administration ordered federal agencies to halt all pending regulation until they can be reviewed.
“The APHIS regulation is further evidence of the department’s unrelenting effort to make a so called voluntary program mandatory, and it should be permanently stopped by the new administration,” said acting Fund president Pete Kennedy.
“This effort by the former Bush administration is yet another back-door attempt to circumvent the will of the U.S. Congress which has repeatedly failed to pass legislation making NAIS mandatory and the will of four separate state legislatures that have passed legislation explicitly prohibiting the mandatory implementation of NAIS,” said Kennedy.
In September, the USDA issued a memo to animal health officials that mandated NAIS premises registration be used any time someone had any activity on their property (such as vaccinations or testing) conducted under any of the federal disease control programs. We publicized the memo in November, and a public outcry ensued. The September 22 memo is posted here.
On December 22, USDA issued a new memo posted here, that revoked its September memo. The fact that USDA felt pressured to take this step is good news! But the new memo is far from being a complete victory.
On the last two pages of the new memo, USDA still provides for mandatory premises registration any time Veterinary Services personnel conduct an “activity” related to a federal disease control program, including such activities as vaccinations, certification, or surveillance. Moreover, accredited veterinarians are still expected to provide information on their clients to the government authorities to enable the voluntary or involuntary issuance of the NAIS registration. At the very end of the document, USDA includes language indicating that a property owner might elect not to have a NAIS PIN assigned to the premises, but does not explain how that fits with the directives in the memo that “all locations” that have a disease program activity “will be identified” with a NAIS PIN.” The ultimate effect is very unclear.
Investigators spent an average of 199 days tracing the sources of animals infected with bovine tuberculosis between October 2005 and August 2007, according to information from the Department of Agriculture.
Export sanctions connected with a Newcastle disease outbreak in 2002 and 2003 cost nearly $1 million weekly in lost income, department information states.
Dr. John Clifford, deputy administrator of Veterinary Services for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the National Animal Identification System could eventually allow inspectors to trace the origin and movements of diseased food animals within 48 hours.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2008--The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today approved several new visual identification tags: three individual animal identification 840 tags from Destron Fearing/Digital Angel, where 840 represents the U.S. country code, and one premises identification tag from Allflex. In USDA’s National Animal Identification System (NAIS), identification tags and devices are used to provide a greater level of animal traceability in the event of an animal disease outbreak.
Washington, D.C. – In formal correspondence sent today to the leaders of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, two national groups and nine others – all from different states – requested that Congress immediately halt any further advancement of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and to conduct an oversight hearing on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) NAIS activities to carefully and deliberately investigate the full ramifications of USDA’s NAIS-related actions and proposals.
This costly and poorly conceived program is now mandatory in some states. It requires farmers to tag each animal, in most cases using electronic identification, and report off-farm movements to a database via computer. Here are ten good reasons to nip this program in the bud.
Not needed. We have existing tracking systems that have met our needs for decades.
Expensive. The government has spent over $100 million on just the first stage so far, with no cost-benefit analysis. The costs of the whole program could easily be $37 or more per animal, creating a multi-billion dollar expense that will ultimately be paid through increased taxes and costs of food.
Technology-dependent. NAIS requires computers and internet access. Amish farmers don’t have electricity, and many other farmers don’t have or want internet access. This program makes high-tech companies rich, at the expense of everyone else.
Corporate welfare. The factory farms get to use “group identification”, while small farmers are stuck tagging each animal.
Won’t improve food safety. The tags are removed at the slaughterhouse, so NAIS does not improve our ability to track animals into the food chain. It’s won’t prevent sick animals from being used for human consumption and won’t prevent or improve recalls.
Will reduce food safety and choices! Because of its high costs and government intrusion, NAIS will drive small farmers out of business, reducing people’s ability to buy local foods directly from farmers. Eating local is your best way to “source verify” your food!
Animal welfare. Studies indicate that microchips may cause cancer in animals. And by continuing to push farmers to “get big or get out”, NAIS will increase the number of animals in inhumane factory farm system.
Exploding government bureaucracy.
Religious freedom. Many Amish, Mennonites, and other Christian farmers consider the mandatory microchipping to be the fulfillment of Revelations, and they cannot comply.
Privacy and property rights. NAIS would create the first permanent federal registration system for land and personal property. It would require reporting of normal, daily events in people’s lives – buying or selling an animal, taking horses to shows, or providing food for their own table.
Impossible to implement. The USDA can't monitor what is being done to cows in 100 slaughter plants. How can they keep track of 180 million animals (and billions of chickens) on more than a million farms? The only country to implement electronic tagging of cattle, Australia, has a database that is in chaos.
Impossible to enforce. The government says they don’t have the resources to enforce the current laws, including inspecting imported foods and slaughterhouses in this country! NAIS will create a black market for animal ownership and make lawbreakers out of ordinary citizens.
Where does it end? Some of the same high-tech companies want to microchip humans, and are already pushing to microchip children, the elderly and prisoners.
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USDA IMPLEMENTS KEY STRATEGY FROM NATIONAL ANIMAL IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM BUSINESS PLAN
WASHINGTON, April 15, 2008--The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced that it has implemented a key strategy from its Business Plan to Advance Animal Disease Traceability by providing National Animal Identification System (NAIS) compliant "840" radio frequency (RF) eartags to animal health officials for use in the bovine tuberculosis (TB) control program.
NAIS-compliant "840" tags provide for individual identification of livestock through a 15-digit number beginning with the U.S. country code. Through the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, the "840" tags allow animal health officials to electronically identify an animal. This increases the efficiency of animal disease investigations that involve the tracing of exposed and potentially infected animals. RFID technology also increases the accuracy of recording the animal's 15-digit animal identification number (AIN). USDA has purchased a total of 1.5 million "840" RF animal identification tags to support animal disease control programs, including the bovine TB and brucellosis programs.
"Using NAIS-compliant tags with RF technology establishes a consistent data format across our animal disease programs. It will also increase the efficiency and accuracy of the on-ground animal health task force conducting bovine TB testing and response," said Bruce Knight, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs. "This effort supports a key strategy outlined in our business plan and is another step toward reaching NAIS' ultimate goal of 48-hour traceability."
Recently, USDA shipped 28,000 tags to California to support bovine TB testing as part of an ongoing investigation. So far, a total of 6,600 cattle in two California herds have been tagged with "840" devices. The goal is to link the cattle to their premises of origin, so that if there is an outbreak in the future the movements of the infected animals can be quickly traced. Bovine tuberculosis investigations are currently occurring in several States. Since 2002, bovine TB detections in six states have required the destruction of more than 25,000 cattle. USDA has tested over 787,000 animals in response to TB outbreaks since 2004.
RF tags have been used in beef and dairy operations for management and marketing purposes for several years. Incorporating AIN RF tags into animal disease programs promotes the standardization of identification methods and technology so that they can be used by producers and animal health officials for multiple purposes.
Currently, there are five USDA-approved manufacturers that produce eight devices for official NAIS use. Seven of these devices are RFID eartags, while the other device is an injectable transponder to be used in horses and other farm animals not intended to enter the food production chain.
NAIS is a modern, streamlined information system that helps producers and animal health officials respond quickly and effectively to events affecting animal health in the United States. NAIS utilizes premises registration, animal identification and animal tracing components to both locate potentially diseased animals and eliminate animals from disease suspicion. It is a state-federal-industry partnership, which is voluntary at the federal level. For more information on NAIS, go to www.usda.gov/nais .