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USDA Holds Missouri Listening Session on Livestock Tracking System

Article from The Packer

Maureen McCollum

COLUMBIA, MO (KBIA) - Midwestern farmers flocked to Jefferson City yesterday to express their views on a controversial animal tracking system. KBIA's Maureen McCollum has more.

Most of the farmers, ranchers, and advocates took the day off of work to give their two cents on National Animal Identification System. NAIS creates a nationwide registry of livestock and properties, and tracks the animals' movements. Officials with the United States Department of Agriculture say it's needed to quickly locate and eradicate disease outbreaks in livestock. Dr. David Hobson is with the USDA Veterinary Services.

"And normally this results in lower costs to producers if we get rid of the disease faster. So it's really a plus. Then we have the foreign markets that will open up faster."

The USDA has been holding listening sessions across the country to hear what farmers have to say about NAIS. Those wanting to testify before the USDA waited with a raffle ticket in hand, anticipating their number to be called so they could get their chance to speak.

For four hours, farmers and agriculture association representatives stepped forward, overwhelmingly expressing their opposition to NAIS.

"There is no way, no way that I will comply. I will die before I comply."

Doreen Hannis is a homesteader in south central Missouri. She echoed many farmers' concerns, saying they had the freedom to run their own farms and did not want government control. Others say the administrative and cost burden associated with NAIS could put them out of business. Ozark area rancher Bob Parker says he cried the first time he read the system's documents because he knew it would end his life as a farmer. He says he always supports the USDA's efforts to prevent and eliminate disease, but doesn't think NAIS is effective.

"If I took a plastic ear tag and put it in your ear, would it prevent you from getting sick?"

Parker and others say if the USDA wants to prevent disease, it needs to focus more on packing plants and animal imports.

One Saline County pork producer did speak on behalf of NAIS. Missouri Pork Association Director At Large Brent Sandidge says the industry has suffered so much over the last year and a half, and NAIS is critical to eliminate diseases. He says if an outbreak does occur, time, money, and animals will be saved if farmers register their property.

"Whether foreign, emerging, or domestic, animal health professionals can efficiently locate premise that have been exposed rather than by physically locate them by driving."

All testimonies made at the listening session will be sent back to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's office. NAIS is still a voluntary program, and one USDA official said yesterday that there is no mandatory proposal at this time. Missouri passed a law last year that prohibits NAIS from becoming mandatory in the state.
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