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.