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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.

To Boyce, the system is just another mandate from Washington bureaucrats who have no idea how the small farmer operates.

For example, Boyce’s cattle generally don’t end up in other places. He raises them on his sprawling farm and sells the meat directly to customers. Still, he would be forced into the NAIS program.

“If my animals never go to an international market, then why am I being forced to do it?” he asks.

From a public safety standpoint, Boyce doesn’t see the benefits.

“I can’t see how this is going to benefit mom when she goes to the store to buy groceries,” he says. “It’s not going to make our food any safer. If the farmer makes dirty food, it’s still going to be dirty food.”

Initially crafted as a mandatory program, USDA backed off and made NAIS enrollment voluntary in 2006 after vocal opposition from farmers. New Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is again ramping up pressure to participate in the system. USDA officials recently kicked off a nationwide “listening tour” that included a stop in Harrisburg last week.

“USDA needs to hear directly from our stakeholders as we work together to create an animal disease traceability program we can all support,” Vilsack said.

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