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For farm family, no more fairs

They say a government program violates their private-property rights.

By Monte Whaley | The Denver Post

Cassidy Younggreen, 13, won awards for her goats at the Boulder County Fair last year, but this year she and her brother Ryan won't be there. They raise 30 goats, two llamas and 15 chickens.

BROOMFIELD — Cassidy and Ryan Young-green won a passel of ribbons in the Boulder County Fair last year, carrying on a family tradition of putting their livestock up against any comers in annual county-fair competitions.

But this year, Cassidy, 13, and Ryan, 11, aren't showing anything at the Boulder County Fair — not even their award-winning goats — because they would be forced to participate in an intrusive new government program, said their mom, Kellyjo Younggreen.

"They tell us you have to register, you have to register," Younggreen said. "But I think this just goes too far."

Some other farm families in Colorado feel the same way about a national animal-identification program that they say is a violation of private-property rights.

They are refusing to let their children enter their livestock in fair competitions — including those in Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Larimer and Weld counties and the Colorado State Fair — where entries must comply with the National Animal Identification System. NAIS is a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative designed to help regulators track animal diseases.

"There are several instances of families across the state who are simply saying no," said John Reid, a cattle operator in Ordway and member of the Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association. "There is overwhelming opposition to this initiative everywhere."

But proponents say the ID program will help prevent a national outbreak of livestock disease. Fair organizers also point out protesting families are few and far between.

In fact, they say, the number of fair participants is actually up this year.

"It seems pretty isolated to maybe two families and a (4-H) club or two," said Richard Biella, president of the Boulder County Fair board.

Biella, too, was skeptical of the ID plan. But as an owner of Angus cattle, he became a fan because he says it could prevent health problems afflicting entire operations.


Kellyjo Younggreen feeds a goat Friday on her Boulder County farm. Her family is boycotting the county fair because of an animal ID program. (Photos by Nathan W. Armes, Special to The Denver Post )

"I understand some people don't feel comfortable with the program," Biella said. "But truly, if the government wanted to find out about us, they only have to look at our license plates, punch in a couple of numbers, and they'd get all they wanted."

At the center of the NAIS are premises identification numbers, or PINs. When livestock owners register for a PIN, they must give basic contact information as well as what species of animals are on their property and the type of operation.

So far, the system is voluntary. But a handful of county fairs in Colorado this year are requiring PIN registration for 4-H livestock that might go to market.

The state fair also requires PIN registration, but that hasn't stopped 4-H families from entering competitions, said Gwen Bosley, animal ID coordinator at the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

"There are a lot of misconceptions out there about what this is all about," Bosley said. "But once you explain that it is simply a way to protect animals from an animal health emergency, people understand. There might be a handful of families in the state who have dropped out of fairs because of this, but that's about it."

Kellyjo Younggreen, however, said a national ID program will only favor corporate farms because only one animal will be registered out of a whole section of the same breed of animals. Small operators like her — with a 5-acre operation of mostly chickens, rabbits and goats — will have to tag each animal.

The possible expense of such a program — and the notion her family's operation will be part of a massive government database — makes her nervous.

"I just don't like the scare tactics the government is using," Younggreen said. "It feels like we are being forced into something we don't need."

Monte Whaley: 720-929-0907 or [email protected]


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