Food For Thought

Say No To NAIS

by Richard Bean, President of Virginia Independent Consumers & Farmers Association

Richard Bean

Livestock owners, don’t believe that the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), which was featured as a February cover-wrap advertisement in Cooperative Living, is good for you or your animals. First, remember that the rules for this plan come from the United States Department of Agriculture and can be found on their Web site at

This program will not be free, by any means. True, it doesn’t cost to enroll your premises, but RFID tags, equipment to tag and database entries will all be expensive and time-consuming. Oh, you didn’t know these items were coming with the program? Yes indeed. Births, deaths, and notice of movements from the premises and back again will be required, and someone will charge you for these database entries. Who is going to profit from the sale of the equipment, supplies and entries? Certainly not the animal owner.

NAIS proponents claim the program is concerned with protecting health. What real health risks are we worrying about? Yes, we have a few endemic problems at very low levels, but do they really require the kind of program that the government is trying to sell to you? The real health concerns of parasites, predators and poor nutrition will not be dealt with. These will still be your problems. With your premises ID (notice they are not calling it a farm ID), they want to include all places that animals can be commingled. Let us take a possible situation and what the effect might be with your premises ID. Say there is an avian flu outbreak in a factory chicken house. Any and all backyard farm flocks in the surrounding area that have premises ID, and therefore can be located by the authorities, may be liquidated in fear of possible contamination. Of course, you understand what “liquidated” means.

And the program supposedly will protect you and Virginia from serious economic impacts. It seems to me family farms and Virginia agriculture are falling to lower economic depths each year, and an animal ID system would just put more of a financial burden on us.

NAIS will, supposedly, be confidential. As we speak, animal-species programs — for example, the sheep and goat scrapie (a disease) program — are being downloaded to the Feds without our knowledge. In Australia , where such a program exists, there are supposedly 11 million lost animals, with animal costs over $20 per head. In Canada , where the program just covers cattle, we have found ID’d cattle in United States ’ auction markets illegally. This unworkable program purports to protect your animal for life. I don’t think so. Protecting our animals is the owner’s responsibility, not the government’s.

What is the real reason behind this outrageous program? I contend it is corporate control of the beef industry. Agricultural corporations control the feeding, processing, and distribution of our beef supply, now they want control of the source of the calves for complete domination of the beef industry. They already control the poultry and swine industries. Corporate farming brings us inhumane animal treatment and questionable food quality. I find it dangerous to our future when corporate agriculture has complete domination over our livestock and poultry.

Or is it the U.S. government’s desperate need for control, along with more bureaucratic jobs and abuses? Or the pursuit of profits to RFID chipmakers and data-entry firms collecting mountainous fees? None of these are good reasons or choices.

Here are some worrisome questions to ask your state veterinarian. (1) What is the legal nature of the contract that I enter into when I sign up for a U.S Premises Identification Number? (2) If I want to, can I rescind that contract at any time? (3) Does the U.S. Premises Identification Number “cloud” the title to my property? (4) When I get a U.S Premises Identification number, does my farm become subject to the regulations of the United States Department of Agriculture? How many constitutional rights do I give up when I sign up?

Please think through what you are getting into when you sign up for premises ID. There are many details that we are not being told about. Those of us who have studied and opposed this issue for the last 12 months have found out what is going on behind the scenes and it is not pretty. The state of Vermont has officially rejected the idea by not taking federal funds for the year of 2007. They originally were going to be one of the first states to have a mandatory premises ID program.

In the last 50 years our family farms have been constantly reduced as has our national health. Here is another expensive, burdensome bureaucratic program to make family farming more difficult. Just say no to NAIS.    

What’s Your View?

Obviously, there are at least two sides to every issue. Do you have a different view? This column is meant to provoke thought, so keep sending comments. Each one is read with the utmost interest. Send e-mail to: [email protected], or send written responses to the editor.  Mail will be forwarded to the author.




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