Washington, D.C. -- R-CALF USA and 92 other organizations recently joined together to ask members of the Agriculture Appropriations Conference Committee to eliminate completely any and all funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) National Animal Identification System (NAIS) by adopting the House version of the 2010 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, which zeroes out any money for NAIS.
"NAIS is a far-reaching 3-step program that calls for every person who owns even one livestock or poultry animal to register their property, tag each animal when it leaves the property it was born on, and report a long list of movements to a database within 24 hours, and these provisions apply whether or not that animal is used for commercial purposes, which will impact millions of animal owners," said R-CALF USA Animal ID Committee Chair Kenny Fox.
Just a few of the reasons listed in the joint letter as to why NAIS is fundamentally flawed include:
1) No analysis or quantification of the alleged benefits. USDA has made unsupported assertions that our country needs 48-hour trace-back of all animal movements for disease control. Yet USDA has failed to provide any scientific basis, including risk analysis or scientific review of existing programs, to support this claim. USDA has also asserted that NAIS would provide 48-hour trace-back, but has failed to address the many technological and practical barriers. Existing disease control programs, combined with measures such as brand registries and normal private record-keeping, provide cost-effective trace-back. A new and costly program such as NAIS is unnecessary and potentially counterproductive.
2) High costs. The costs of complying with NAIS will be unreasonably burdensome for small farmers and many other animal owners. The costs of NAIS go far beyond the tag itself, and include: premises registration database creation and updates; tags and related equipment, such as readers, computers, and software; 24-hour reporting requirements, imposing extensive paperwork burdens; labor for every stage of the program; stress on the animals; qualitative costs, from loss of religious freedoms, privacy, and trust in government; and enforcement.
3) No food safety benefits. NAIS will not prevent food borne illnesses from E. coli or salmonella, because the contamination occurs at the slaughterhouse, while NAIS tracking ends at the time of slaughter. Thus, NAIS will neither prevent the contamination nor increase the government's ability to track contaminated meat back to its source. In addition, NAIS will hurt efforts to develop safer, decentralized local food systems.
4) Unfair burdens placed on family farms and sustainable livestock operations. NAIS would also impose significant reporting and paperwork burdens on small farms. In addition, sustainable livestock operations that manage animals on pasture would face higher rates of tag losses than confinement operations, due to animals getting their tags caught on brush or fences. NAIS essentially creates incentives for CAFOs, with the accompanying social and environmental concerns.
The groups requesting the elimination of NAIS funding include: Acres USA; Adopt a Farm Family; Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network; American Goat Society; American Grassfed Association; American Indian Horse Registry; American Policy Center; Arkansas Animal Producers Assn.; California Farmers Union; Carolina Farm Stewardship Assn.; Carriage Operators of North America; Cattlemen's Texas Longhorn Registry; Citizens for Private Property Rights (Mo.); Colorado Independent Cattlegrowers Assn.; Constitutional Alliance; The Cornucopia Institute; Dakota Resource Council; Dakota Rural Action; Davis Mountain Trans Pecos Heritage Assn. (Texas); Edible Austin; Edible San Marcos (Texas); Empire State Family Farm Alliance (N.Y.); Equus Survival Trust; Fair Food Matters (Mich.); Family Farm Defenders; Farm Aid; Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance; Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; Food and Water Watch; Food for Maine's Future; Freedom 21;
Also: Grassroots International; Gun Owners of America; Independent Cattlemen of Iowa; Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska; Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming; Innovative Farmers of Ohio; International Texas Longhorn Assn.; Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement; Jackson County Local Action Coalition (Ore.); LaCrosse/ Monroe County Farmers Union (Wis.); Local Harvest;
Also: the Maine Alternative Agriculture Assn.; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assn.; Marshall County Citizens for Property Rights (Ala.); Massachusetts Smallholders Alliance; Michigan Farmers Union; Michigan Land Trustees; Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance; Mississippi Livestock Markets Assn.; Missouri Rural Crisis Center; Missourians for Local Control; Montana Cattlemen's Assn.; Montana Farmers Union; National Assn. of Farm Animal Welfare; National Family Farm Coalition; Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society; North Carolina Contract Poultry Growers Assn.; Northeast Organic Farming Assn.-Conn.; Northeast Organic Farming Assn.-Mass.; Northeast Organic Farming Assn.-N.H.; Northeast Organic Farming Assn.-N.Y.; Northeast Organic Farming Assn.-Vt.; Northeast Organic Farming Assn. Interstate Council; Northern Illinois Draft Horse and Mule Assn.; Northern New Mexico Stockman's Assn.; Northern Plains Resource Council (Mont.);
Also: the Organic Consumers Assn.; Organization for Competitive Markets; Ozarks Property Rights Congress; Paragon Foundation; Paso Fino Horse Assn.; Powder River Basin Resource Council (Wyo.); Progressive Agriculture Organization (PA); Property Rights Congress; R-CALF USA; Regional Farm and Food Project (N.Y.); Rocky Mountain Farmers Union; Secure Arkansas; Small Farmer's Journal; Small Farms Conservancy; South Dakota Stockgrowers Assn.; Sovereignty International; Stop Real ID Coalition; Sustainable Food Center (Texas);
Also: the Texas Eagle Forum; Texas Landowners Council; Tuscaloosa Property Rights Alliance (Ala.); U.S. Boer Goat Assn.; Virginia Land Rights Coalition; Western Organization of Resource Councils; Weston A. Price Foundation; and, the Wintergarden Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (Texas).
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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. R-CALFUSA represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on trade and marketing issues. Members are located across 47 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners. R-CALFUSA directors and committee chairs are extremely active unpaid volunteers. R-CALFUSA has dozens of affiliate organizations and various main-street businesses are associate members. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.