Wednesday, February 01, 2006

NAIS - more infringement on animal owners

I copied this from an angora list:

Small farmers and homesteaders have chosen their way of life because
they love their freedom-the freedom from urban noise and congestion,
the independence from government and corporate interference, the self-
reliance of providing one's own shelter, water, food. Now the USDA's
NAIS-National Animal Identification System-threatens the traditional
freedoms of the rural way of life.

The genesis of the NAIS

The NAIS is the brainchild of the National Institute for Animal
Agriculture (NIAA). Who is the NIAA? Primarily two groups-(1) the
biggest corporate players in U.S. meat production (for example, the
National Pork Producers, Monsanto, Cargill Meat); and (2) the makers
and marketers of high-tech animal ID equipment (for example, Digital
Angel, Inc., EZ-ID/AVID ID Systems, Micro Beef Technologies, Ltd.).
Beginning in 2002, the NIAA used 9/11 and subsequently the BSE scares
to lobby the USDA for a nationwide, all-livestock registration and
tracking system. The result is the USDA's proposed NAIS, set forth in
a Draft Strategic Plan (Plan) and Draft Program Standards (Standards)
released on April 25, 2005. The Plan and Standards can be downloaded
from http://www.usda.gov/nais.

Main requirements of the NAIS

The NAIS would require two types of mandatory registration. First,
premises registration would require every person who owns even one
horse, cow, pig, chicken, sheep, pigeon, or virtually any livestock
animal, to register their home, including owner's name, address, and
telephone number, and keyed to Global Positioning System coordinates
(for satellite-assisted location of homes and farms), in a federal
database under a 7-digit "premises ID number." (Standards, pp. 3-4,
10-12; Plan, p. 5.) Second, individual animal identification will
require owners to obtain a 15-digit ID number, also to be kept in the
federal database, for any animal that ever leaves the premises of its
birth. Thus, even if you are raising animals only for your own food,
you will have to obtain an individual ID to send animals to a
slaughterhouse, to sell or buy animals, to obtain stud service.
(Large-scale producers will be allowed to identify, e.g., large
groups of pigs or broilers raised and processed together by a single
group ID number. However, owners raising single animals or a small
number, under most circumstances will have to identify each animal
individually for purposes of slaughter, sale, or breeding.) If you
own a non-food animal such as a horse, you would need individual ID
if you ever left your property for shows or trail rides. The form of
ID will most likely be a tag or microchip containing a Radio
Frequency Identification Device, designed to be read from a distance.
(Plan, p. 10; Standards, pp. 6, 12, 20, 27-28.) In addition to
this "electronic identification," the USDA will allow "industry" to
decide whether to require the use of "retinal scan" and "DNA"
identification for all animals. (Plan, p.13.)

Within this system, for animals subject to individual animal
identification, the animal owner would be required to report: the
birthdate of an animal, the application of every animal's ID tag,
every time an animal leaves or enters the property, every time an
animal loses a tag, every time a tag is replaced, the slaughter or
death of an animal, or if any animal is missing. Such events must be
reported within 24 hours. (Standards, pp. 12-13, 17-21.) The USDA
plans "enforcement" to ensure compliance with the NAIS. (Standards,
p. 7; Plan, p. 17.) The USDA has not yet specified the nature of
this "enforcement," but presumably it would include fines and/or
seizure of animals.

A more recent development is a movement, spearheaded by the National
Cattlemen's Beef Association, to "privatize" the database which will
contain all the premises and animal identification information and
tracking information. As reported in Lancaster Farming, Aug. 6, 2005,
p. E 22, the NCBA has lobbied the House Agriculture Committee to urge
the USDA to put the NAIS database administration into the control of
the NCBA itself. As explained below, such "privatization" will only
worsen the prospects for invasion of privacy and economic pressures
on small farmers and homesteaders.

Any benefits of the NAIS Are illusory

The NIAA and USDA claim two principal benefits of the NAIS: first,
enhancing export markets for U.S. livestock products; and second,
allowing traceback to farms of animals' origin when animal diseases
(such as BSE) are found. These "benefits" are of no use to most small
farmers and homesteaders. Small farmers and homesteaders sell to
their neighbors or consume their animal products themselves-they
don't profit from "export markets." Small farmers and homesteaders
raise their animals in natural and healthy conditions-usually on
pasture, with minimal home-raised or organic grain, with plenty of
space for exercise and dispersal of waste-to assure that problems
like BSE and bacterial contamination won't occur in the home-raised
animals destined for their own tables.

Indeed, the NAIS "traceback" system would be much less effective
against BSE than a system of testing every slaughtered cow. Europe
and Japan perform testing of every cow. The USDA has refused such
testing; but surely the testing would be less expensive than a huge
tracking system covering every cow, horse, donkey, llama, alpaca,
pig, sheep, goat, pigeon, chicken, duck, farmed fish, etc., etc.

Moreover, the NAIS system would be of no use at all in dealing with
the most common types of meat contamination in the U.S., the
occurrence of pathogens such as listeria or E. coli in processed
meat. One example of such contamination can be found at
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fsis_recalls, 2005 recalls nos. 033-2005 and 040-
2005. Those incidents involved over one million pounds (enough to
serve at least four million people) of ground beef contaminated with
coliform bacteria, distributed nationwide by a single processor. Such
instances of contamination are not discovered until the meat has been
distributed into the supply chain. Assuming that a cow yields 500
pounds of ground meat, the one million pounds in the foregoing
recalls represent meat from over 2,000 cows. There is no way to
identify individual cows from one million pounds of hamburger; no way
to tell if any contamination came from a cow, multiple cows, or from
the processing itself; and no benefit to consumer safety in such a
situation from the NAIS system. In sum, when meat becomes
contaminated at a large packing plant, millions of consumers in all
50 states can be exposed to the dangerous product. In contrast, an
incident of impaired food at a small-scale farm or local processor
might affect only a few dozen consumers in a single county. Thus, by
encouraging increased consolidation of the meat industry, the NAIS
would actually make America's food supply more unstable and less
safe.

It is therefore clear that the benefits of the NAIS are illusory.
Unfortunately, the harms of the NAIS are very real, and fall
primarily upon the smallest farmers, homesteaders, and consumers.

The harms of the NAIS are very real

The NAIS will drive small producers out of the market, will prevent
people from raising animals for their own food, will invade
Americans' personal privacy, and will violate the religious freedom
of Americans whose beliefs make it impossible for them to comply.

The NAIS will create an unfair economic burden on small farmers and
homesteaders, because animal owners will bear the costs of property
and animal registration. As the USDA frankly admits, "there will be
costs to producers" (Plan, p. 11); "private funding will be
required... Producers will identify their animals and provide
necessary records to the databases... All groups will need to provide
labor." (Plan, p. 14.) In sum, there is no realistic chance of
government funding to cover the costs of the program once it is
established, and animal owners will have to pay the tab for premises
registration fees, individual animal ID fees, reporting fees for
events such as animals leaving a given premises or being slaughtered,
and for equipment such as RFID tags, tag readers, or software needed
to report to the database. The proposed privatization of the NAIS
would only worsen the economic burden, since a private database
holder would certainly want to make some profit from the system.

The NAIS would also, in fact, lessen rather than improve the security
of America's animal foods. The NAIS is touted by the USDA and
agricorporations as a way to make our food supply "secure" against
diseases or terrorism. However, most people instinctively understand
that real food security comes from raising food yourself or buying
from a local farmer you actually know. The USDA plan will only stifle
local sources of production through over-regulation and additional
costs. Ultimately, if the NAIS goes into effect, more consumers will
have to buy food produced by the large-scale industrial methods which
multiply the effects of any food safety and disease problems.
Moreover, the NAIS system will create opportunities for havoc, such
as the deliberate introduction of diseased animals into premises
containing large numbers of a given species.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the NAIS is its proponents' lack
of concern for individual privacy and religious freedom. Consider
that the NAIS plan is a compulsory registration with the government
of all people who want to raise their own animal foods. Concededly,
the Bill of Rights does not contain a constitutional amendment
specifically to protect one's right to produce one's own food. But
that is only because the generation of the Founders could never have
imagined that American government could evolve into a system that
would compel citizens to in effect ask for government permission to
produce their own food.

Further, consider that livestock animals are legally a form of
personal property. It is unprecedented for the United States
government to conduct large-scale computer-aided surveillance of its
citizens simply because they own a common type of property. (The only
exceptions are registration of motor vehicles and guns, due to their
clear inherent dangers- but they are registered at the state level,
not by the federal government. Moreover, those registration systems
predate the widespread use of personal computers and the development
of the Internet, so even the car and gun registration systems were
never intended as the widespread threat to privacy and freedom that
they have become today.) Surveillance of small-scale livestock owners
is like the government subjecting people to surveillance for owning a
couch, a tv, a lawnmower, or any item of personal property. Moreover,
privatization of the NAIS will surely result in the same gross abuses
already evident in private databases of financial information-the
sale of citizens' most personal data, without their knowledge, to the
highest bidder; and the vulnerability of citizens' information to
hackers and thieves, because the President and Congress have utterly
failed to subject the powerful private data industry to long-needed
protections for citizens' privacy.

The NAIS also violates America's tradition of respect for the
religious freedom of members of minority faith communities. Many
adherents of plain (and other) faiths raise their own food animals
and use animals in farming and transportation because their beliefs
require them to live this way. Such people obviously cannot comply
with the USDA's computerized, technology-dependent system; and many
of them also believe that scriptural teachings or other religious
tenets prohibit the marking of animals or homes with high-tech
numbering systems. The NAIS will force these people to violate their
religious beliefs, by compelling them to make an impossible choice
between abandoning the livestock ownership necessary to their
religious way of life, or accepting the government's imposition of
practices abhorrent to their faith.

The USDA's planned NAIS timetable:

The following is the USDA's timetable, as set forth in the Draft
Strategic Plan and Draft Program Standards on April 25, 2005, for
implementing the mandatory NAIS. Essentially, the USDA timetable
would make premises identification and individual animal
identification mandatory as of January 1, 2008. Please note that
there can be no assurance that the USDA will not advance (or delay)
the previously announced timetable. In addition, the USDA timetable
may differ from that of individual states, which have had the
incentive of grant money from the USDA to establish pilot projects of
premises and animal identification. (For example, Wisconsin is
attempting to compel premises and animal identification by late 2005
or during 2006.)

April 2005-the USDA issued its Draft Strategic Plan and Draft Program
Standards for public comment. The public comment period for those
documents ended in early July 2005.

July 2006-the Draft Strategic Plan (p. 10) gives July 2006 as the
target date for the USDA to issue a proposed rule setting forth the
requirements for NAIS premises registration, animal identification,
and animal tracking. This will be a crucial juncture for action by
those who will be harmed by the NAIS, because there will be a limited
public comment period after the publication of the rule, and
objections expressed in the public comments may persuade the USDA to
modify or abandon some requirements of the rule.

Fall 2007-the USDA plans to publish a "final rule" to establish the
requirements of the mandatory NAIS. (Plan, p. 10.)

January 2008-this is the most crucial date in the USDA's present
timetable, the date when premises identification and animal
identification would become mandatory. (Plan, pp. 2, 10.)

January 2009-"animal tracking" would become mandatory,
including "enforcement" of the reporting of animal movements. (Plan,
p. 17.)

How to oppose the NAIS

There is still time to oppose mandatory premises and animal
identification. Small-scale keepers of livestock can take action to
create an effective movement in opposition to the USDA/agricorporate
plan. First, small-scale livestock owners should not participate in
any so-called "voluntary" state or federal program to register farms
or animals. The USDA is using farmers' supposed willingness to enter
a "voluntary" program as a justification for making the program
mandatory. (See Plan, "Executive Summary" and pp. 7-8.) If a state or
extension official urges registration of your premises or livestock,
question them about whether the registration is mandatory or
voluntary and about any deadline for registration; and ask them for a
copy of the legislation or rule establishing any claimed authority to
require such registration.

Small farmers and livestock owners can also help inform and organize
others. The USDA presently does not plan to finalize its rules to
establish mandatory ID until the summer of 2006. (As stated above,
individual states, such as Wisconsin, may be planning earlier
implementation, but even in such states, widespread objection by
animal owners can still affect whether plans become permanent and
whether reasonable exceptions may be established.) Animal owners
should contact breed associations, organic and sustainable farming
organizations, or general farming interest groups and ask them to
oppose the NAIS. Also ask such organizations to start or support
campaigns of letter-writing to officials and of commenting on the
USDA rules scheduled to be issued in summer 2006 (and any similar
state rules).

NAIS opponents can also individually write their federal and state
legislators. You can find contact information for both federal and
state officials through http://www.vote-smart.org or through the federal
government's site, http://www.firstgov.gov. Remember, the conventional
wisdom is that individual letters sent by postal mail carry more
weight than e-mails or signing on to form letters. But any input is
more useful than no input, so if you don't have time for an
individual letter, use e-mail, telephone, group petitions, or any
means you can. Also remember that both individual initiative and
group initiatives count, so even after you have sent a letter,
continue, if you can, to respond to calls for action asking you to
send additional messages to government officials.

In particular, the USDA's planned issuance of a NAIS rule for public
comment in July 2006 will be a crucial juncture. Be aware of press
coverage or action alerts at that time, and when you hear that the
public comment period on a NAIS rule is open, please take the time to
submit an individual comment.

Finally, if the time comes when the NAIS (or a state equivalent) is
about to go into effect as presently planned, and you feel your
rights are being violated, you can contact groups that may provide
legal representation without cost. Some sources of information to try
are: (1) Farmers' Legal Action Group, http://www.flaginc.org, 651-223-5400;
(2) the American Civil Liberties Union, http://www.aclu.org; for the ACLU in
your state, see the pull-down menu on the bottom of that page,
under "your local ACLU"; and (3)

http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/findlegalhelp/home.cfm
, the American Bar
Association's guide to legal services.

Basically, there seems to be a movement afoot to limit animal breeding to large breeders who have the time, $$, and the resources to keep up with the paperwork and fees. Forget the small breeders who have to hold down full-time jobs and do it for a hobby, not for profit. Eventually, if these laws get passed, the only source for pets will be pet stores and big breeders.

It's already happening in agriculture with plant seeds:

(Notice Monsanto is involved in both)


PSchmeiser vs Monsanto

2 comments:

Walter Jeffries said...

Thank you for helping to spread the word about this trampling of our Constitutionally guaranteed 4th Amendement rights. I have setup a web site and blog at http://NoNAIS.org to fight against NAIS. People are welcome to use any of my articles and images from it to further the fight to prevent NAIS from being forced upon us. Together we can spread the word and make a loud angry noise to stop this insanity foisted on us by the Govi-Corp.

-Walter Jeffries
Fighting NAIS at http://NoNAIS.org/
Farming at http://SugarMtnFarm.com/blog/

Jan said...

Thank you, Walter! We need to stop this movement in its tracks!