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Statement from the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association regarding NAIS, for the meeting with US Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, Washington DC, 15 April, 2009
My name is Liz Reitzig and I am Secretary of the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (NICFA
The USDA claims that the Animal Health Protection Act of 2002 (AHPA) authorizes it to implement a National Animal Identification System (NAIS). However, nowhere in the AHPA is the USDA authorized to assign a federal, permanent 7-character number to private land. Neither is it authorized to require application to any animal of an '840' prefix tag indicating the animal is US born, and it is not authorized to require RFID devices, like implantable microchips, or RFID tags, on a privately owned animal. Further, the AHPA does not authorize the USDA to require reporting movements, vet visits, or any of the 23 'reportable' events listed in NAIS documents. The AHPA authorizes the USDA to track shipments of animals that have been imported. Any assertion beyond that is an extrapolation by the USDA.
If the USDA knew the AHPA authorized it to implement NAIS, why would it have supported and pushed for five bills to mandate NAIS in statute since 2003? If the AHPA is the authorizing act, why has the USDA been involved in developing an NAIS since at least 1994, as evidenced by the National Livestock Identification Symposium where both Dr. John Weimers of APHIS and Neil Hammerschmidt (at the time employed by the Holstein Association and since employed by USDA-APHIS as NAIS Coordinator) were participants? These men have been architects for NAIS in this country since at least 1994, and have drawn salaries from USDA for most of those years. Have these salaries and the funding of the Farm Animal Identification and Records program of the Holstein Association as well as the establishment of the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium been figured into the cost of NAIS thus far? Both of these groups were headed at their inception by Mr. Hammerschmidt before he became NAIS coordinator for USDA-APHIS.
The USDA has stated in various NAIS documents that the 'goal of NAIS is 48-hour traceback to the premises of origin’ of an animal disease outbreak. Foot and Mouth Disease, or FMD, is the nightmare scenario used to scare everyone into believing that we must have 48-hour traceback through NAIS. Yet with FMD, forty-eight hours is not fast enough.
FMD is highly contagious and spreads through airborne contamination, cross contamination from non-affected species or wildlife, or by direct contact. Symptoms may take up to three weeks to manifest, yet viral transmission can occur within a week of contamination. FMD does not kill the infected animal unless the animal is already stressed. A cow will lose her next calf and dairy animals will produce less on the next freshening, but they will not die. It also does not infect people nor make an infected animal’s meat unsafe for human consumption. An infected animal traveling from Oklahoma to Washington on an open livestock trailer has the potential to spread the virus anywhere in between. Passing another livestock trailer means any of those animals could contract and spread the disease. Should that occur, in order to keep the FMD-free status for World Trade Organization members, as required by the OIE (World Animal Health Organization), Americans would have to kill every susceptible livestock animal within the 6.2 kilometer radius of where the infected animal has been. However, according to Dr. Steve Van Wie, Homeland Security Veterinarian, in wildlife, such as deer, the disease is self-limiting. While no one wants this disease, and we should control our borders and refuse to import raw meat from affected nations, the truth is that FMD is really a WTO disease of concern, and the nightmare of FMD would be in following the OIE stamp out measures--that would not eliminate the disease--rather than the disease itself.
Recognizing that the only real justification for NAIS is to meet World Trade Organization OIE guidelines, the only acceptable application for a program of this magnitude and Constitutional repugnance would be that Export Verification services offer it as a 'pay to play' program for exports to WTO member countries that might desire to require this type of system. There are two livestock markets in the nation, export and domestic, and those who believe they can benefit from this program should be allowed to attempt to do so at their own expense.
Our country is unique among the nations of the world. The United States Constitution is designed to limit the powers of centralized federal government, and our forefathers carefully crafted the document to ensure liberty for their posterity. In Article 1 section 8, the powers of the federal government are delineated. Nothing in the Constitution authorizes the federal government to require registering of private property. George Washington's men did not follow him barefooted and starving through the snows of Valley Forge so that the USDA could require birth certificates for goats.
In closing, you must be aware that there is no 'consensus' to be reached on a mandatory or voluntary federally managed and funded NAIS. The opponents of this program stand upon their God-given, inalienable, constitutionally guaranteed rights to engage in agriculture and their ability and duty to feed themselves and their countrymen. We farmers are too few to win this fight alone, but we will not dishonor those who have gone before, as our freedom was bought with their blood. We are not too few to die; and such is our resolve. The question is how firm is the resolve of the USDA?
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