Hot News in the Fight Against the National Animal Identification System
The fight against NAIS has shifted to a new level! In May, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund issued a Notice of Intent to Sue letter to the USDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture over the agencies’ illegal implementation of the National Animal Identification System. The 25-page letter describes the history behind the development of NAIS, the reasons why NAIS violates several provisions of federal and Michigan law, and cites the specific provisions of law that have been violated. The arguments range from the environmental impacts of the program, to its economic impacts on small businesses, to the impact on religious freedoms, and also include the complete failure to show that NAIS has any rational relationship to actually addressing the problem of animal disease. Although the Notice of Intent includes some claims that are specific to Michigan, many of the arguments are relevant to the NAIS program nationwide.
The letter requests that all funding, implementation and further development of NAIS immediately halt or appropriate action will be taken, and gives the agencies 30 days to respond. Given the amount of money they have spent already on NAIS, and their continued claims that the program is critical to animal health, it is very unlikely that the agencies will stop implementing NAIS. This Notice is a necessary first step towards filing suit against the USDA. So stay tuned!
You can find out more information by going to www.FarmToConsumer.org or call the Legal Defense Fund at (703) 208-FARM (3276). The Fund will need everyone’s support in its fight against NAIS, so please consider joining the Fund or giving a tax-deductible donation to its sister organization, the Farm-to-Consumer Foundation, www.farmtoconsumerfoundation.org.
On the Legislative Front
While the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is taking the fight against NAIS into the litigation arena, the legislative front continues to heat up as well. We won a victory in the Farm Bill when the conference committee took out Section 10305. That section would have amended the Animal Health Protection Act of 2002 to require the USDA to adopt regulations consistent with the Freedom of Information Act “regarding the disclosure of information submitted by farmers and ranchers who participate in” NAIS. The deletion of Section 10305 means that there is still no mention of the “NAIS” in the Animal Health Protection Act, which USDA claims gives it authority for NAIS, nor indeed is there mention of NAIS in any other Congressional statute.
We have also had some partial victories at the state level. There are now four states with laws rejecting mandatory NAIS! In addition to Arizona and Nebraska, discussed in the last issue of Wise Traditions, both Kentucky and Missouri have now adopted laws preventing their agencies from adopting mandatory programs. The Kentucky bill is the first to include a provision explicitly forbidding the agency from using coercive methods to enroll people in a so-called “voluntary” program. The Weston A. Price Foundation, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, and Kentucky Community Farm Alliance, along with many individuals, worked hard to get this important bill passed. The Kentucky law and the Missouri law both also include a provision for people who have already registered to opt out of the program. Although the USDA has stated that people can opt out of NAIS, many state agencies have made the process difficult, which is why the provisions in the state laws are important. If you were one of the people who registered in NAIS and now want out, go to www.libertyark.net/opt_out.html for help on how to get out of the database. You can also find the text of all of these bills on the website. None of the bills is perfect, but they are all important steps forward.
As this issue of Wise Traditions goes to press, the fight to get an anti-NAIS bill passed in Illinois is in the final stages. The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) began the year by requiring children to register in NAIS in order to compete in the state and county fairs and coerced thousands of people into registering with this tactic. Although IDOA has reversed the policy for this year, the threat remains. Illinois HB 5776 would do two things: (1) forbid the IDOA from requiring premises registration or NAIS electronic identification for participating in fairs, unless required by federal law and (2) requires the IDOA to develop a procedure for people to withdraw from NAIS, so that the thousands of people who have already signed up can get back out. Although the bill unanimously passed both the House and the Senate, it is in danger of dying due to politics in the Legislature that have nothing to do with NAIS. Go to the State Updates page at www.FarmAndRanchFreedom.org to find out what happened with this bill.
And, finally, citizens in Colorado continue to fight their state’s requirement that children register in NAIS for the fairs. The Colorado Department of Agriculture is finally going through the rulemaking process, to justify its existing policy of requiring NAIS premises registration for participation in state fairs. A hearing is scheduled for May 30, and Colorado citizens are working hard to keep the rule from being adopted.
Most of the developments discussed in this article are good news in the fight against NAIS. But it is far too early to think that the war has been won! We need people to support the litigation and legislative efforts, and to continue to educate their own communites. Go to the websites listed above for more information on what you can do to help.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2008.