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Is NAIS an Ag Version of Star Wars?

by: Jill Richardson
Thu Apr 09, 2009 at 06:00:00 AM PDT

Article from

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...

Collin Peterson recently said that NAIS would be crucial if we had an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the U.S. - an outbreak that could destroy our export markets. If NAIS was in place, the government claims that they could stop the disease in its tracks within 48 hours. And if NAIS is going to kill small farmers and leave consumers with no choice besides factory farmed meat, milk, and eggs, so be it.

So let's look into the threat of FMD (foot and mouth disease). Here's what you need to know:

  • It's NOT a human health threat
  • It's highly contagious & it's airborne.
  • The incubation period is short - unlike mad cow disease, FMD shows up within 2 weeks after you catch it.
  • Domestic animals (cows, sheep, etc) can catch it - but so can wild animals like deer.
  • If left untreated, most animals recover from FMD.
  • If an outbreak occurred in the U.S. it would kill our export markets - at least temporarily. The economic fallout would be BAD.
  • Right now, the US is FMD-free.
  • The best way to prevent an FMD outbreak here is to NOT IMPORT animals that might have FMD.

The threat, if you care about our export markets for livestock, is roughly like a nuclear bomb. It could come anytime, from anywhere, and it's instant (economic) annihilation. It's really scary. The government's general plan if it happens is to find all of the sick or exposed animals as quickly as possible and kill them. Yes - you read that right. This is a disease that nearly all animals recover from naturally, but the government would kill them. And to aid with the killing, they want to register all animals in a burdensome, costly, Big Brothery national animal ID system.

But - unfortunately - killing all of the animals, even if they were registered in NAIS, likely wouldn't work. It wouldn't work because it totally ignores wild animals, who could also catch and carry the disease. And, to the government's chagrin perhaps, there's no way to register and track every single wild animal in America. It's about as feasible as shooting down an incoming nuclear missile. It sounds like a really good idea, but the odds that it would actually work aren't good.

So what do we do instead? Prevention! In the case of getting nuked, we use intelligence and diplomacy. Keep nukes out of the hands of rogue states and terrorists, work with other countries toward nuclear non-proliferation, and don't provoke other countries into war!

How about preventing FMD? Well, it doesn't exist in the U.S. now so if it came here, we know it would come from imports. Wouldn't it make the most sense to put our resources into inspecting and tracking our imports? What about banning imports from countries that have FMD? Or is that idea just too easy?

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