From the Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance:
This is a major victory for the grassroots!! Thank you to the thousands of people who called, wrote, organized meetings, and more. Dozens of organizations, from across the country and the full range of the political spectrum, worked together on this common cause. And we succeeded in making our voices heard.
USDA has stated that it is refocusing its efforts on "a new, flexible framework" that will apply only to animals moved in interstate commerce and encourage the use of "lower-cost" technology. During today's conference call with USDA, I asked whether the agency would continue using federal funding to pressure states to adopt the program through cooperative agreements. In response, Secretary Vilsack stated that USDA has gotten a "failing grade" on NAIS and that he does NOT intend to try to implement it through the back door.
We still have more work in front of us. As USDA develops its new framework, we must be involved and vocal, so that agribusiness does not develop yet another high-tech, big-industry boondoggle. We must be active at the state level to ensure that the state agencies do not implement unnecessary and burdensome rules. And we must work to roll back the unfair requirements that have already been implemented in Wisconsin and Michigan. Ultimately, it is up to us -- as animal owners, homesteaders, farmers, ranchers, and consumers -- to build a positive vision for our farms and our food.
The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is designed to identify all livestock animals and poultry and track their movements. When the program is fully implemented, the USDA claims that NAIS will be able to identify all premises on which animals and poultry are located, and all animals that have had contact with a disease of concern, within 48 hours of discovery. In reality, NAIS provides no food safety benefit and threatens small-scale organic farmers and ranchers, while accelerating farm consolidation and benefitting factory farms.
NAIS requirements are particularly expensive and burdensome for those farmers raising sustainable livestock on pasture. Ultimately, this will reduce the availability of grass-fed meats, eggs, and milk. In many cases, the tagging and reporting costs for small farmers would exceed the value of the animals. Certified organic and pasture raised animals would likely be forced into confinement for ranchers and farmers adequately implement the ID program. Without access to pasture, many ranches will be disqualified from the USDA National Organic Program and consumers will have less choice when purchasing meat and dairy.
Proposed NAIS regulations favor factory farms and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Feedlots to battery cage operations are already highly computerized from feed to slaughter. Corporate factory farms have the capital and infraestructure to purchase and implement the costly NAIS regulations with little or no impact on their profit margin. Small and medium-scale farms and ranches will either have to expand and eliminate sustainable ranching practices, like pasture raising their animals, to compete with CAFOs and other factory farms, or simply disappear.
The USDA's stated goal of NAIS "to be able to identify all animals and premises that have had contact with a foreign or domestic animal disease of concern within 48 hours after discovery." Yet the program is silent on how that information would be used to prevent or control disease outbreaks. This program is a one-size-fits-all program developed by and for big Agribusiness. NAIS will increase consolidation of our food supply in the hands of a few large companies and put the brakes on the growing movement toward local food systems. While purported to be a safety-focused imitative, NAIS does not address the threats to food safety or animal welfare. In lieu of regulating factory farms, antibiotic abuse, manure discharge, or Mad Cow, the USDA is merely going to track and segregate this food safety crisis.
In addition to massive Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), other agribusiness corporations are promoting NAIS. Included in this list is the National Institute of Animal Agriculture (NIAA), an industry organization that includes "a who's who of agribusiness": Cargill, Monsanto, the National Livestock Producers Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Renderers Association, and veterinary medicine companies such as Pfizer and Schering Plough. Additionally, manufacturers of animal ID and tracking systems, such as Cattle-Traq and Digital Angel, stand to make massive profits, with millions of new clients, like 4-H youth programs and homesteaders. These new tracking costs will be borne by taxpayers, consumers and small-scale farmers.
Current NAIS provisions require that all animal owners, from small hobby farms and homesteaders, to backyard chickens and pasture-based operations to participate in the USDA's animal ID program. In addition to increasing a massive "Big Brother" infrastructure to monitory everyday citizen farmers, religious groups, including Amish farmers, oppose NAIS as violation of their religious beliefs.