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Published: Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Peeved ranchers lambaste federal effort to ID herd animals

By Shannon Dininny

Associated Press

PASCO — Five years after the federal government started a program to trace livestock in the event of a disease outbreak, just 36 percent of ranchers are taking part.

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials found out why Monday, when 75 Western livestock producers gave them an earful during a meeting. The “listening session” was one of seven scheduled around the country in May and June to hear ranchers’ concerns, with the goal of increasing participation in the program.

Those concerns haven’t changed much in five years: The cost is too high for small farmers. The regulations amount to bureaucratic suffocation. The program neither prevents nor controls disease. And what’s in a farmer’s pasture is nobody’s business.

“This is the last of your freedom, boys. Freedom restricted is freedom lost,” said Bert Smith, a cattleman from Layton, Utah, who owns Ox Ranch in Ruby Valley, Nev.

The nationwide tracking system, started in 2004, is intended to pinpoint an animal’s location within 48 hours after a disease is discovered. Farmers were to have voluntarily registered their properties with their states by January 2008. Mandatory reporting of livestock movements was to begin one year later.

Just 36 percent (USDA’s numbers) of the nation’s estimated 1.4 million farm “premises,” which includes farms’ multiple locations, are registered.

As of March 31, the USDA has obligated $119.4 million toward the program, which it says will help ensure the safety of the food supply, particularly for export markets that may refuse to accept U.S. beef, pork or poultry during a disease outbreak.

During the recent swine flu epidemic, several countries banned U.S. pork products, even though there is no evidence the virus is spread by food.

The proposed system does nothing to prevent disease, and animal tracking would be better left for states to handle themselves, said Wade King, president of the Cattle Producers of Washington.

“USDA should be focused on preventing the disease instead of tracing it,” he said.

Carol Osterman of Akyla Farms in LaConner said her small farm of cattle, goats, pigs, llamas, poultry and horses would be forced to close if the suggested “regulatory burden” becomes a reality.

She recommended the program be eliminated, or at best, applied only to large, confined-animal feeding operations.

So far, the level of participation varies by livestock species, though no data was immediately available. USDA spokeswoman Joelle Schelhaus said the opportunity for improving participation in the cattle industry is highest due to its sheer size.

Separate surveillance programs for brucellosis and tuberculosis track fewer than 20 percent of cattle, while 90 percent of sheep are tracked under a similar surveillance program for scrapie.

Only two people spoke out strongly in favor of the program, one of them a representative for a company that supplies animal identification tags.

Read entire story at HeraldNet and make comments

An eye witness account from the Washington USDA Listening Session from Elaine Smith. This is the truth, not a “fair and balanced” half good–half bad report like the news media reports. Thank you Elaine for this report.

I did attend the Pasco listening session, but I was late as the session began at nine. I got there right before the comments ended, and I did make a brief comment. I told them “1,000 farm and ranch families go out of business each month due to economic pressures and excessive government regulation. My sons will not be able to continue in the ranching business with NAIS. I ask you USDA people—What part of ‘NO ANIMAL ID’ do you not understand?!”

Pasco Washington is basically a farming community(fruit trees, grapes, potatoes, asparagus, corn and other vegetables) with a few ranches in surrounding areas. It is important to note that there are kill plants there to process the cattle streaming across the border from Canada, so it was convenient for the packers to show up! But I was told only 3 spoke for NAIS.

I estimate there were 50 to 75 other attendees, some ranchers driving 8 hours to get there, I drove 4 hours. I personally commented to a USDA person that Pasco was NOT a good place to hold a listening session if they wanted ranchers to attend, and in the breakout session, I further scolded them for this. I explained to them that most of the attendees were NOT being paid to be there—we paid our own travel expenses, and because the session began in the morning, those of us who came a great distance had a motel bill on top of that,
AND we had to take 2 days away from our operations during the busy spring season.

I used the comments from the Pennsylvania session and told them the USDA has shown themselves to be untrustworthy—promising a voluntary program and no one wants to volunteer. I also told them that they are not trustworthy as they insist on writing the COOL regulations so they are ineffective in preventing disease from entering our country.

I also explained to them that the ranchers I know DO NOT have computers, and for some of them a library is 150 miles away (to use a computer) and they DO NOT have time to learn and use a computer. The whole NAIS plan is ludicrous and WILL NOT WORK. I think I scolded them pretty well and a young rancher had some prepared comments that were very good. We both told them “We will not comply”. Others there were more into explaining the details that wouldn’t work for their situation, and that the cost was exorbitant.

There were two cops there with scowls, and all of the USDA employees seemed rather meek and embarrassed, which makes me think that the Pennsylvania session had made them realize just what they are personally doing. However, I also know that their training may have taught them that they need to have an ‘understanding attitude’. Who knows?

I know what a toll it takes on families to be forever fighting govt. agencies determined to put us out of business.

For Liberty!

Elaine Smith

Attentive USDA Screeners

KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA

May 18, 2009

 Pasco, WA- The U.S. Department of Agriculture is holding what it calls listening hearings on a proposed animal identification system.

 The  USDA is getting an earful in the Tri-Cities.

 Cattle ranchers from across Washington State spoke up at the federal hearing at TRAC today.

 The ranchers say the National Animal Identification System isn’t needed, and its cost would drive many small ranchers and farmers out of business.

 The USDA says the program would mainstream the tracking of livestock, and would prevent the spread of disease among animals and into the food chain.

 But the president of cattle producers of Washington State, Wade King,  says if the federal government wants to prevent disease, start at the borders.

 “They’re letting animals in, and then they want to trace the animals after they’ve co-mingled with ours,” King says. “If we have better border security we would prevent the introduction of the disease to the animals.”

 King says Washington State’s livestock tracking system is already doing the job, and he says local ranchers shouldn’t be penalized for other states not having effective tracking systems.

 The USDA will hold hearings nationwide throughout the summer, recording all the comments. The Secretary of Agriculture could decide early next year whether to go through with the program.

Harrisburg, Pa—the first of a series of NAIS Listening Sessions was held today at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, Harrisburg, Pa. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stated, "I encourage individuals and organizations to voice their concerns, ideas and potential solutions about animal identification." And—voice concerns they did!

The Pennsylvania location was a choice spot for this first national effort by USDA. The Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture has been mellowed by USDA with $2,127,411 of cooperative agreements directly for the purpose of NAIS property enrollments. The state’s generous grants were successful in energizing one of the highest percentages of farm enrollments of any state, not counting Massachusetts, who according to USDA records have a 227.1% enrollment.

Pennsylvania should have a very high percentage of favorable NAIS listening session enrollees, but it didn’t happen.

Those responding to the invitation to "voice their concerns" requested formal speaking time up to 2 weeks in advance and signed up a second time this morning on arrival. Each hopeful speaker got to speak up to 3 minutes if their name was drawn. A total of 187 people requested to speak and 36 actually were successful.

The beginning agenda allowed for senior USDA staff to cajole the perceived merits of NAIS for a scheduled one hour period. Staff members Jere Dick, Neil Hammerschmidt, and John Weimer defined the goals and theory of the troubled program.

Crowd control was a consideration. Due to the "touchy" nature of this USDA effort up to eight law enforcement officers were positioned on perimeters of the Expo meeting room. Farmers and ranchers are normally law abiding country folk, so fortunately no arrests or altercations took place. USDA staff member and blue group leader, Larry Miller, requested speakers have a "respectful attitude" at all times during the process.

As approved presenters rapidly verbalized their three minute allotment, USDA staff were true listeners with seldom if any comment. Their reaction was somber regardless of the charged efforts of livestock producers, with many far from polite, and seasoned with colorful barn yard vernacular in many cases.

A large Amish delegation were represented offering passionate pleadings against mandatory NAIS. Others of faith expressed major concerns. Two livestock producers from Ohio attended, one lady from Oregon and most from within a five hour drive of the eastern Pennsylvania area.

Of the successful speakers, 27 were clearly opposed to NAIS and 4 spoke in favor. Three indicated they were enrolled in NAIS without their knowledge and one indicated they had enrolled by mistake and wish they had not. One lady said her husband enrolled against her will and now he understands.

Afternoon attendees were divided into three break-out groups with the assignment from Secretary Tom Vilsack (not present) "discussions will be less about concerns and more about ideas and solutions to create a NAIS that we can all live with." Each group was to study seven questions and focus to identify workable solutions. The seven questions centered around, cost, impact on small farms, privacy and confidentiality, liability, premises registration, animal ID, and animal tracing. These are considered the most concerning objections to NAIS.

The three break-out groups recorded the following concerns:

  • "There is no problem that NAIS will fix."
  • "Drop the program."
  • "Don’t use the word premises. I own property, not a premise."
  • "Trace only international imported and export animals."
  • "It is obvious enforcement is big with USDA by the looks of the police guards present here today. We are scared of your enforcements of NAIS mandatory on our farms."
  • "Leave us alone! I am just here to say, NO!"
  • "We don’t trust USDA."
  • "USDA has a tarnished reputation of raiding family farms without cause. NAIS is designed to make farm raids more prevalent."
  • "If a government program isn’t worth doing, it is not worth doing right."
  • Statement to the break-out moderator, "Thank you for listening. The longer you listen—NAIS won’t be mandatory."
  • "NAIS is OK with me except for just one part—–MANDATORY."
  • "You have not been honest with us about the enrollment numbers for NAIS."
  • "USDA are amateur liars. I like to be lied to professionally."
  • "NAIS has a trust issue. We don’t trust NAIS."
  • An R-CALF USA eight point proposal for an alternative animal health program was recommended six times during the break-out session. (It was the only alternative solution offered.)
  • "The country is in serious economical trouble. It is not the time to add more costs to farm production."
  • "Over 90% of farmers are opposed to NAIS. Will you still demand mandatory NAIS regardless of listening session results?
  • "The USDA animal health program currently is effective, NAIS is not needed."
  • "Don’t call me a stakeholder. I am a land and horse owner. I am insulted by calling me a stakeholder. I am not holding the stakes for others."
  • "USDA should be working on vaccines to prevent disease instead of NAIS trace back."

USDA’s John Weimer was asked about the results of the letter writing effort to USDA with a designated comment period about NAIS several months ago. Where were the results published? He did not recall the comment effort and did not know what happened to the hundreds of communications USDA received.

In the blue break-out group all speaking participants (43 total) were clearly opposed to NAIS. USDA’s group leader Larry Miller continued to redirect the emphasis from NAIS concerns, over to solution issues to make mandatory NAIS a palatable program. One dairy farmer said, "We have answered your questions. You are not listening. There is no way NAIS will work. No part of it will work. All seven questions are not solvable. Any people who want to do NAIS should be able to volunteer, but mandatory NAIS will cause bloodshed in the streets. We will refuse to surrender."

Future USDA listening meetings on NAIS will be held at Pasco, WA, Austin, TX, Birmingham, AL, Louisville, KY, Storrs, CT, and Loveland, CO. Comments for those who may not be able to attend should be sent to the Federal eRulemaking Portal.

Click Any Photo for Bigger Photo

The first listening session hour began with a power point as USDA leaders spoke on the many theories of NAIS.
The first listening session hour began with a power point as USDA leaders spoke on the many theories of NAIS.

Neil Hammerschmidt, believed to be the driving force behind NAIS, carefully articulated virtues and protective benefits for livestock producers.
Neil Hammerschmidt, believed to be the driving force behind NAIS, carefully articulated virtues and protective benefits for livestock producers.

Security guards were on duty at all times during the listening sessions.
Security guards were on duty at all times during the listening sessions.

The head table featured l to r, Neil Hammerschmidt, Jeri Dick, and John Weimer.
The head table featured l to r, Neil Hammerschmidt, Jeri Dick, and John Weimer.

Security guards were alerted to possible disturbances among farmers with planned dispatching.
Security guards were alerted to possible disturbances among farmers with planned dispatching.

USDA's Larry Miller led one of 3 break-out afternoon sessions.
USDA’s Larry Miller led one of 3 break-out afternoon sessions.

Extra security guards were on site in case of a major problem with livestock producers.
Extra security guards were on site in case of a major problem with livestock producers.

The furthest attendee was from Oregon. Speakers were provided 3 minutes to present their concerns.
The furthest attendee was from Oregon. Speakers were provided 3 minutes to present their concerns.

Click for High Resolution Photos:
The first listening session hour began with a power point as USDA leaders spoke on the many theories of NAIS.
Neil Hammerschmidt, believed to be the driving force behind NAIS, carefully articulated virtues and protective benefits for livestock producers.
Security guards were on duty at all times during the listening sessions.
The head table featured l to r, Neil Hammerschmidt, Jeri Dick, and John Weimer.
Security guards were alerted to possible disturbances among farmers with planned dispatching.
USDA’s Larry Miller led one of 3 break-out afternoon sessions.
Extra security guards were on site in case of a major problem with livestock producers.
The furthest attendee was from Oregon. Speakers were provided 3 minutes to present their concerns.
Attentive security guards surveilled for unruly farmers.

Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund Says NAIS Clearly Penalizes Small Farmers
May 12, 2009

FALLS CHURCH, Va.–(EON: Enhanced Online News)–The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Foundation said today that a cost/benefit study commissioned by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) proves that the costs for small farmers to implement the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) could put many of them out of business.

“Most animal health problems are the result of the high-density CAFOs that concentrate thousands of animals in one location, while food safety problems begin at the slaughterhouse where NAIS traceability ends”

“The government’s own numbers show that a small farmer will pay at least twice and in some cases nearly three times the costs per animal to participate in NAIS as will the operators of the large confined animal feeding operations (CAFO),” said acting Fund president Pete Kennedy.

The costs for animal identification quoted in the study called “The Benefit-Cost Analysis of the National Animal Identification System,” which was released April 29, range from $2.48 per animal for CAFOs with more than 5,000 cattle to $7.17 per animal for producers with less than 50 and who do not currently tag their cattle.

“Not only does the difference illustrate how unfair NAIS will be,” Kennedy says, “we think the numbers themselves are substantially underestimated, which will further burden the small farmers to the point of making their way of life untenable.”

Kennedy also pointed to the study’s unreasonably low estimate of what it would cost a small farmer to hire someone to read the tags since many of them will not be able to afford to purchase the thousand-dollar-plus electronic tag reading equipment.

“The government’s time and labor costs for custom tag reading for animal identification are not grounded in reality,” Kennedy said. “For instance, the study estimates that a small farmer could hire a third party to travel to his farm to do it for only $1.87 per animal. That estimate seems ridiculously low, especially for farms and ranches located in remote areas.”

Fund board member Taaron G. Meikle said that the unrealistic and misleading cost assumptions together with USDA’s own statement about the major benefits of NAIS are further evidence that the animal identification program is being implemented to benefit CAFOs at the expense of the small farmer.

Meikle pointed to a fact sheet published by the USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services that lists “key points” from the study. “The first one speaks to the timely recovery of export markets after a disease outbreak and the second says that traceability is necessary to participate in the global marketplace,” she said. “Neither of these matter to a small farmer who sells his beef to his neighbors on his farm or at a farmers’ market.”

Meikle reiterated the Fund’s position that implementing NAIS will do little if anything to improve animal health or food safety in the United States. “Most animal health problems are the result of the high-density CAFOs that concentrate thousands of animals in one location, while food safety problems begin at the slaughterhouse where NAIS traceability ends,” she said.

“By implementing NAIS—which requires small farmers and ranchers to track each animal individually while allowing CAFOs to track all animals under one blanket Group Identification Number—the USDA would be rewarding factory farms whose practices encourage disease while crippling small farms and the local food movement in the name of increased international sales.”

Meikle also noted that the Fund intends to have a presence at the upcoming listening tour on NAIS that the USDA plans to conduct in seven cities beginning May 15. “The USDA is positioning these hearings as a forum to discuss ‘stakeholder concerns’ about NAIS, when the hearings should be focused on whether or not it is needed at all, and we intend to make sure the voices of small farmers are heard.”

The Fund last year filed suit in the U.S. District Court – District of Columbia against the USDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) to stop the implementation of NAIS.

The MDA has implemented the first two stages of NAIS – property registration and animal identification – for all cattle and farmers across the state under the guise of its bovine tuberculosis disease control program. MDA’s implementation of the first two steps of NAIS was required in exchange for a grant of money from the USDA.

The Fund’s suit asks the court to issue an injunction to stop the implementation of NAIS at both the State and Federal levels by any State or Federal agency. If successful, the suit would halt the program nationwide.

About The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund: The Fund defends the rights and broadens the freedoms of sustainable farmers, and protects consumer access to local, nutrient-dense foods. Concerned citizens can support the Fund by joining at or by contacting the Fund at 703-208-FARM (3276). The Fund’s sister organization, the Farm-to-Consumer Foundation (, works to promote consumer access to local, nutrient-dense food and support farmers engaged in sustainable farm stewardship.


Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
Taaron G. Meikle, 703-537-8372
Cummings & Company LLC
Brian Cummings, 214-295-7463


by Darol Dickinson

In Ancient Rome, the historic source of modern law, CULPAE POENAE PAR ESTO meant “Let the punishment fit the crime.” But at one agency of our federal government, that time honored precept seems to have been forgotten. National Animal Identification System (NAIS), being promoted by USDA as a possible future disease tracing program, threatens both consumers and livestock producers with its draconian enforcement measures. The plan promises to saddle producers with exorbitant costs–certain to be passed on to consumers–even though the USA already has the least livestock disease of any nation on earth!

The first step in implementing NAIS is premises enrollment, next individual animal identification, and then coast-to-coast 48 hour animal tracing. Although these three components are the “only” steps mentioned by USDA, there is growing suspicion among livestock owners and some government officials that mandatory enrollment and compliance will be the next shoe to drop. There are strong hints that the USDA’s velvet glove conceals an iron fist!
USDA Ag Secretary, Tom Vilsack has promised that NAIS is totally voluntary on the federal level, “if . . . enough livestock owners enroll so it does not have to go mandatory.”
Compliance is meticulously touched, “If USDA decides to make NAIS mandatory, USDA/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, (APHIS) will follow the normal rulemaking process,” according to Vilsack. With rules, laws, inspections, taxes, regulations, licensing and surveillance, comes—Enforcement.

Enforcement of NAIS is not a happy subject, especially when the first step is still not sitting well with over three million animal producers. However, it is a dead serious issue for cowboys who want to know what new enforcements are involved, and the price tag, before surrendering to mandatory enrollment.

The current “rule making process” for USDA (which can be found on line at Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute, U.S. Code., Title 7, Chapter 109, 8313. Penalties.) Spells out what the “feds” can do to a farmer, rancher or 4-H kid. For a first infraction, there’s a $1,000 maximum. But subsequent penalties can be as high as $500,000 “for all violations in a single proceeding.”

Having fair penalties appropriate to the violation is a fundamental cornerstone of the US judicial system. However, with the USDA enforcement can be totally capricious. One could be fined $50,000 for crossing a state line with one incorrect number on a USDA issued livestock health certificate for a perfectly healthy child’s pony! According to Dr. Max Thornsberry, president of R-CALF USA, “The USDA is a runaway agency out of control, with total disregard for U.S. citizens.”

Producers are outraged at the massive amount of grants (cooperative agreements) doled out by USDA to make NAIS fully mandatory. Nearly $150 million has already been spent to promote enrollment–but it would only take 300 violations with penalties of $500,000 each to quickly recover that amount.

Forced animal numbering has been considered in a few other countries. However, only Australia has implemented bovine tracking as proposed by the USDA. Australia is also a prototype for US enforcement policies.

Stephen Blair, a Director of the Angus Society of Australia was recently fined $17,300. He was prosecuted for moving cattle from one of his ranches wearing ear tags from his other ranch. No diseased or stolen livestock were involved. It was strictly a matter of a government rule violation.

Certain states, induced by federal cash incentives, are already making “voluntary” NAIS rules mandatory. In Wisconsin Emanuel Miller, Jr., is being prosecuted for not enrolling his private property. Patrick Monchilovich in Cumberland, Wisconsin, also refusing to register, faces up to a $5000 fine plus all court costs and attorney’s fees. Best estimates indicate the cost for each will be over $90,000 if their defense efforts fail. Several thousand livestock producers in Wisconsin are refusing to enroll but have not been charged to date. The blood is starting to flow.

Proposed “food safety” bills would demand extraordinary enforcements. One such bill, HR 875 has $1,000,000 per violation per day (non-exclusive) penalty with 5 – 10 years jail time. HR 875 is a disguised back door effort to legislate NAIS mandatory.

USDA muscle is already in place–awaiting the opportunity to enforce a mandatory NAIS. Under existing rules, it is the obligation of licensed USDA veterinarians to report all non compliance by their clients or be subject to immediate disciplinary review. It is obvious that the agency is keen on enforcement.

The USDA/APHIS policing division is the Investigative and Enforcement Services (IES) with headquarters in Riverdale, MD. IES boasts of increasing thousands of “clients” with a 51 percent increase in case load and “more than a threefold increase in the dollar value of civil penalties” in one recent year. To enforce the ever increasing number of regulations, the IES even encourages citizens to become their informants. Neighbors, farm employees and friends are urged on the IES web site to “report potential violations.”

US livestock producers could soon become the most criminalized food producers in the world with major convictions for minor violations.

NAIS, when mandatory, as proposed by USDA, will require 100 percent computer documentation of stock movement at the sole expense of livestock owners. In a three year period the total NAIS computer entry numbers in the USA will more than eclipse the number of all people living on planet earth. The whopping magnitude of this federal numbering burden will require a giant increase in USDA employees, facilities and, of course, IES will explode with new “clients.” All costs–of both compliance and enforcement–will, of course, be charged to the tax paying consumer.

Every livestock producer should study the surly details of NAIS. So far, over 90 percent of US livestock producers are refusing to enroll their property in NAIS.

Livestock owners and all US citizens should oppose NAIS now, rather than after it has become scurrilously mandatory.

Animal owners and consumer advocates who have been leading the opposition to the proposed federal NAIS program believe that time is running out. To protect family farms and the availability of US grown foods, they are asking everyone to beseech their US Congressmen and Senators. State your sincere opposition of NAIS and other extreme so called “food safety” bills that will most certainly cause unnecessary and extravagant enforcements.

For more information

Australian ear tag case:

Cornell Agriculture Law:

APHIS’ Investigative and Enforcement Services

Please take less than 8 minutes to digest this video prepared by R-CALF USA and presented by CEO Bill Bullard.

Cattle producers are fighting for their lives to protect themselves and their families from the devastating costs, flawed duress, over-kill and destructive enforcement fees of NAIS. Please view and consider the unprecedented financial gut-shot NAIS will be to all USA livestock producers. With NAIS all will be sentenced guilty until proven otherwise, as USDA crushes forward like a lion fighting over fresh kill. Please call your elected regulators and request mercy.

R CALF Explains Why NAIS is Flawed

On April 15, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack held a roundtable discussion on the controversial National Animal Identification System (NAIS). He had invited 29 organizations, and I had the opportunity to represent the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC).

Secretary Vilsack opened by explaining that he was getting pressure from Congress, which is considering, apparently, cutting off the funding for NAIS unless the livestock industry works out a consensus to have better voluntary participation. I probably was not the only one in the room wondering: “And this is a bad thing?” He went on to mention that NAIS is becoming a requirement for international trade since all of our major competitors have NAIS type traceability systems.

I challenged this international market requirement, pointing out that last fall, when I delivered my calves, the buyer wanted source and age identification, which I gladly and easily provided. For the relatively small percentage of beef that we export, compared to our domestic market, a private system between buyers and sellers can work very well. Besides, I pointed out that country-of-origin labeling (COOL) is a marketing program and USDA had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table. So why is USDA so obsessed with NAIS?

If NAIS is not a marketing program, what is it? Some people seem to think that it has something to do with food safety, which is pure nonsense. In the mid 1990’s USDA replaced meat inspectors with the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system (HACCP). In doing so, they did us a great disservice – HACCP – USDA’s gift that keeps on giving salmonella. If people are serious about food safety, then rescind HACCP.

USDA does not have a good record on homeland security either, which is the third rational advanced for NAIS. It was USDA that let bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and tuberculosis (TB) into the country. Homeland security comes from adequate inspections and controls on our borders, not by burdening producers in the heartland with an expensive, intrusive, and cumbersome animal ID system.

Finally, is NAIS a disease control system? It probably could be in some specific circumstances, and the American Veterinary Medical Association certainly thinks it is the answer to all problems. Their statement was by far most in favor of NAIS.

Many of the other attendees were on both sides of the fence. NCBA seemed to say that they opposed NAIS as long as it was a government controlled program, leaving the impression that if NCBA were to run it, they would be happily in favor of a mandatory program. In contrast, R-CALF and U.S. Cattlemen, along with WORC, were clear about their opposition to a mandatory program. The Public Lands Council also opposed it on the grounds that Premise ID in the West, where we have livestock going every which way for summer pasture, NAIS compliance would be very complicated. The American Sheep Growers also opposed, pointing out that the scrapie tag system was working very well as it is.

I think that we were pretty effective in pointing out that this country had controlled many diseases without NAIS. After all, in Montana, we have had an animal ID system – brands– in place for 125 years. I pointedly reminded Secretary Vilsack that USDA has not demonstrated to the western ranchers that NAIS adds value to what we have been doing all along.

I further pointed out that USDA does not have much credibility out West. Given its record with COOL, meat inspection, BSE, TB, and lack of enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, there was very little reason to trust USDA over this NAIS program.

I also reminded Secretary Vilsack that WORC had sent him a letter on April 8th with a long list of questions about NAIS and how it would function. A timely response to that letter would be very beneficial and would clarify a lot, not only for the affected livestock owners, but also for USDA because the department does not seem that to have really thought this through.

After listening to the other groups represented (poultry, pork, horses, milk, elk, bison, monopoly packers, producers of natural foods, stockyards, etc.), it is clear that there is a complex mixture of needs and concerns. Something like NAIS might make sense for some species, some industry segments, and some states that do not have brand laws. However, I remain convinced that a single, overarching national system is too expensive, too intrusive, and unworkable.

Gilles Stockton is a rancher from Grass Range, Mont., member of WORC’s Livestock Committee, and an international consultant on livestock production and marketing.

Kevin Dowling
Communications Director
220 S. 27th Street, Suite B
Billings, MT 59101

Is beef exporting necessary?

By Darol Dickinson–3-2-09

The National Cattleman’s Beef Association says, “..we’re working hard to open trade with Japan, which could add $50 per head to your bottom line.” Multiply that by 97 million cattle in the USA, that is impressive, if true! Ken Stielow, Chairman of the Cattleman’s Beef Board—Beef Checkoff, says, “Exports are key to the future of the US beef industry.”

To build increased beef income for US exporters, US Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan recently was part of the celebration of US Meat Month in Japan. NCBA Past President Andy Groseta accompanied Condoleezza Rice to South Korea to promote US beef and assisted to open trade relations.

False Consumer Demands
It was published by USDA (Jan.11, 2006) that Japan was refusing to resume beef purchases from the US until the NAIS system was 100% operational. Japan did later resume trade with US beef processing plants on July 27, 2006. South Korea also resumed beef trade without any NAIS mandatory requirement. During the same period Australia lost 17% of their Korean beef market while having a fully operational animal ID system called NLIS. The two largest purchasing countries of US beef are Mexico and Canada and they do not require NAIS. It now appears certain that NAIS is not, and has never been a factor in US beef export requirements.

Billions have been spent on US beef export promotion. Seldom, if ever, has anyone considered the cost of return for this “investment.”

Evaluation Inadequate
The world famous professor and animal scientist Jan Bonsma of Pretoria, South Africa said, “The USA has the greatest data collection of any country, but some of the absolute worst statistical evaluation abilities.” World beef export, live cattle, import, pounds, metric tons, dollars and to the penny values are public knowledge. The NASS – National Agricultural Statistics Service at, is a tell-all. For imports and exports go to the FAS – Foreign Ag Service at

All Data Is Available
NASS statistics are for all live and processed beef and show that in the year 2007, the Value in Dollars of US export sales were $2,183,977,168. This volume of exports was shown to have increased by a few million dollars each year for the past 4 years. The Value in Dollars for US imports during 2007 were $4,857,454,008 for all beef. The volume of imports increased by a few million dollars each year during the past 5 years.

The average US resident consumes 68 lbs of beef annually, less than 3 oz. per day. This amount has also increased slightly each year. This is the amount of beef the US consumer wants, enjoys and expects.

The export/import is explained in a number of ways. Some say the US exports low quality beef like tripe, grind, liver, etc., and imports high quality product. Others say the Japanese buy the highest quality steaks for the world’s highest prices. One can search the NASS data and try to figure that out. In reality, the USA is the world’s largest beef consumer and pays the most for it.

Buying High, Selling Low
The Egyptian market for US beef liver has been highly touted. The total value of liver exported to all countries in 2007 was $88,445,888. Beef liver, which is “pure” beef, is a major ingredient in pet food. The domestic US pet food market is so huge it makes Egyptian beef liver purchases look like a wheel barrow load in comparison.

To understand why US beef marketers swear by the crucial importance of exporting beef, one must assume there is a major accumulation of profit between the process of importing and exporting. This profit, obviously, would be large enough that NAIS is imperative and the over $138,000,000 invested to enroll US farm premises was justified by Congress, the President and the USDA. Unfortunately over 3,200,000 livestock and equine producers in the USA are still trying to understand why anyone ever dreamed up NAIS. It doesn’t and hasn’t ever penciled . . . Period!

Flawed Reasoning-At What Cost?
During the American Association of Bovine Practitioners meeting USDA’s Bruce Knight stated that, “We want NAIS in the United States so the US will be in compliance with OIE (World *Organisation of Animal Health) export regulations by 2010.”

The NASS data shows that the average per pound price in US dollars paid for imported beef, live and processed, is $2.39. The average price received for each exported pound of beef, live and processed, is $1.60. Each exchange of a pound of beef produces a net 79 cent loss.

As beef cow numbers annually decrease in the USA the need will increase for more imported beef. During 2009, for every $1 increase in beef exports, the US consumer will require $3 worth of beef to be imported from a country with lower quality beef, less herd health and lower inspection standards than USA. This factor will increase in 2010 and even more in 2011.

Large meat processing companies may find a profitable niche market in some distant country, and as capitalists, all should wish them well. However, when the beef lovers of the USA are forced to enjoy a much smaller portion each year, it may be very unprofitable to globally export prime steaks away from the US consumer.

Future Beef Export Grim
In 2012 to 2015 data shows there will be very little meat of any kind produced in the USA totally using grains that could be used for ethanol or human consumption. There will be far less US exporting of beef. Any association, government or business pouring money into export beef market development obviously does not value or consider NASS data. Anyone applying NAIS enforcement tags to comply with the OIE’s world export recommendations, who expect any premium for NAIS identified cattle——-will be grossly disappointed.

US beef is so appreciated for taste, nutrition and safety, it is being oversold world wide. More product is exported and consumed than is produced in the USA. As US efforts to export beef increase, there will be a greater need for imported beef to supply the US consumer. If US exports increase a billion pounds, a billion more pounds will be imported to fill the need.

Many changes will come about in the next few years. The cost of grains and beef will increase, but the bloating costs of export marketing of both should intelligently be reduced from a multimillion dollar guzzle to a small drip. Without a doubt NAIS is not required by export consumers or USA consumers, but only by USDA and the World Organisation of Animal Health.

*Organisation—French spelling.

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Darol Dickinson, is manager of one of the 50 largest seed stock purebred cattle operations in the USA. He is involved in livestock marketing, retail meat sales, cattle feeding, and exporting. The Dickinson Cattle Co. Inc., ranch site is and the site opposing NAIS is pH 740 758 5050