Will history repeat itself? The latest move toward costly animal ID may put small-scale producers out of business.
In 2005, USDA published plans for a National Animal Identification System (NAIS). NAIS would have required everyone who owned so much as a single livestock or poultry animal to register their property, tag their animal (in most cases uses electronic forms of ID), and register their movements with a database. There were fees and costs associated with every step, and the combination of the expense and the time burdens would have driven most small livestock producers out of business and hobbyists out of owning animals.
USDA quickly faced a firestorm of protests from organic farmers, local food consumers, independent ranchers, property rights advocates, and more.
The organized grassroots opposition ultimately killed the program – at least mostly. [Read our report at https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/farm-ranch/nais-update-spring-2010/]
In its place, USDA developed an Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) program. The ADT rule issued in 2012 was much more limited than NAIS. It covered inter-state movements only, requiring that adult cattle and poultry that crossed state lines were identified. Traditional, low-tech forms of ID were expressly allowed, and several exemptions were included. An overview of ADT is available at: https://www.westonaprice.org/action-alerts/final-rule-on-animal-id
When USDA adopted ADT, it stated that it planned to look again at the question of requiring ID for young cattle (under 18 months) that cross state lines. When the agency announced a series of meetings about ADT this spring, the topic appeared to be just that.
But then USDA released the supporting documents. The meeting handout hints that the underlying agenda is to begin pushing intra-state requirements and electronic forms of identification again – in other words, a NAIS-type system
(see pages 9 and 10 of the handout). And check out the report from an attendee of the first meeting at http://farmandranchfreedom.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/ADT-Meeting-April-11-2017-Summary.pdf
We don’t need every animal to have an electronic tag in its ear and its information entered in a database for the benefit of large corporations and the export market. Please help us put a stop to the return of NAIS before it goes any further!
More information is at the end of this alert, after the action items.
ACTION ITEM #1: Submit written comments
Written comments can be submitted at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=APHIS-2017-0016-0001
The deadline for written comments is May 31 at midnight.
Sample comment for consumers:
I urge USDA to extend the comment period until July 31, 2017. While the meeting notice mentions only ADT, it appears from the supporting documents that USDA is considering a far more extensive program than simply the second phase of ADT.
Extensive new Animal ID requirements could have significant impacts on our agricultural and food system.
I buy my food from small farmers who would be particularly hard hit by the cost and burdens associated with electronic ID. I do not want to see the farmers who provide food for my family and me burdened by requirements for the benefit of those who are exporting to other countries. A local food system is vital to our health, economy, and food security, and I urge USDA to prioritize the needs of small farmers.
Sample comment for producers
I request an extension of time for written comments until July 31, 2017. This is the busiest time of year for many farmers and ranchers, including myself because __________. I need more time to review the USDA documents and consider the issues carefully.
My initial comments are that any action by USDA should be limited to the question of whether young cattle should be required to be identified when crossing state lines. That is the issue that USDA committed to reviewing when it adopted ADT just a few years ago.
[Add any comments or experience you have with animal ID requirements. Have you shipped cattle or poultry across state lines? Have you been involved with a traceback? What would be the impact on you if young cattle (under 18 months) had to have individual identification? What would be the impact if electronic ID were required? If you live in Michigan, which already requires electronic ID, what have been the impacts?]
ACTION ITEM #2 Attend a meeting
Although we’re not trying to get a huge turnout to the meetings (the lack of notice from USDA and biased agenda make it not worthwhile), it is useful to get our objections on the record, so that USDA can’t claim that they only heard from people who wanted an all-encompassing electronic ID program.
So if you are a livestock owner and one of the meetings is near enough that you can attend, please consider doing so.
DATES AND LOCATIONS:
May 2: Embassy Suites Minneapolis Airport, 7901 34th Avenue South, Bloomington, MN.
May 4: Doubletree by Hilton Denver, 3203 Quebec Street, Denver, CO.
May 11: Sacramento Marriott Rancho Cordova, 11211 Point East Drive, Rancho Cordova, CA.
May 24: Hilton Garden Inn Billings, 2465 Grant Road, Billings, MT.
You can find more information and register for the meetings at www.aphis.usda.gov/animal-health/adt-meeting-registrations
NAIS was developed during the 1990s by a coalition of large agribusiness companies and associations, high tech companies, and USDA. In mid-2000, USDA launched the program, with plans to have the full system in place and mandatory nationwide by January 2009.
At first glance, identifying livestock in case there is a disease outbreak sounds like a good idea. Why are we so concerned?
· It’s too expensive. The profit margins for most livestock producers are tiny. A NAIS-type program means not only buying RFID tags (which are more expensive than the traditional metal or plastic ones), but having the infrastructure to properly place the tags, read the tags, and manage the data.
· It doesn’t address animal disease. Traceability is part of being able to control and limit the spread of disease – but it does nothing to actually address disease. The real focus needs to be on prevention. If the government and industry spent even a fraction of the time that they have spent on NAIS on addressing overcrowding in feedlot, poor nutrition and the overuse of drugs, and preventing imports from countries with outbreaks, we would have far healthier animals and less risk of disease in this country. But those things cost the industry money and limit their international markets, so they’d rather focus on tagging and tracking animals.
· It’s about money. The real reason the industry players want electronic ID and tracking is to boost their own profits. The first time around, it was about exports to South Korea and Japan – because, with a 100% traceability program, exporters have greater leverage to claim that countries must open their borders to our products. This time, they’re talking about exporting to China. Not to mention the profits to be had from selling tens of millions of electronic tags, or from managing the massive databases that would be part of the system. Multiple companies and trade organizations stand to make a lot of money from the program – at the expense of the vast majority of farmers and ranchers.
The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance has a lot of articles from 2006-2009, explaining more about NAIS: http://farmandranchfreedom.org/category/animal-id/national-animal-identification-system/nais-overview/