Browsing Posts tagged Scrap NAIS

For Immediate Release

February 8, 2010Contact:
Shae Dodson-Chambers, Communications Coordinator
Phone: 406-672-8969; e-mail: sdodson@r-calfusa.com

Group Praises USDA for Decision to Abandon NAIS

Washington, D.C. — In a letter sent Friday to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry, a Missouri veterinarian, thanked the United States’ top agriculture official for his “receptiveness to the interests of U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers.” On Friday, Vilsack announced he was revising his agency’s prior policy on animal disease traceability and would begin developing a new approach. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) prior policy was the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), a policy vehemently opposed by R-CALF USA and its numerous state affiliates.

“The Secretary has signaled he is going back to the drawing board to develop a new system that does not infringe upon the rights and privileges of U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers as did NAIS,” Thornsberry said. “This is exactly what we’ve been urging USDA to do for the past five years. Our organization has expended considerable resources trying to put a halt to NAIS, and we’re pleased that our members’ efforts have finally come to fruition.”

Thornsberry said NAIS was conceived and supported by international trade organizations, ear tag manufacturers and multinational meatpackers, and was all about controlling cattle farmers and ranchers and cattle markets, not about controlling and preventing animal diseases.

“Friday’s announcement is a major victory for independent cattle producers, as it marks the first time in a very long time that USDA did not suppress the interests of cattle producers in order to accommodate the self-interests of the dominant meatpackers and their allies,” he said.

R-CALF USA Animal Identification Committee Chair Kenny Fox said that the 8-point plan R-CALF USA submitted last year to USDA as an alternative to NAIS fits within the new framework described by Vilsack on Friday. Fox also serves as president of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association (SDSGA), one of R-CALF USA’s largest affiliate organizations.

“Our plan called for the control of disease-related animal identification databases to be vested with state and tribal animal health officials, flexibility in the use of preexisting animal identification devices such as brucellosis tags, no federally mandated premises registration and a renewed emphasis in preventing the introduction of diseases at our borders, all of which are consistent with what USDA announced on Friday,” said Fox.

Thornsberry said this victory was made possible by the thousands of U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers who stood steadfast against NAIS despite the millions of dollars that USDA provided to states and many conventional agricultural organizations in an attempt to enroll as many independent cattle producers as possible into the flawed NAIS system.

“I couldn’t be prouder of R-CALF USA and our state affiliates that never waivered an inch against the extreme pressure applied to our industry by USDA under the previous Administration, by the multinational meatpackers and by the conventional industry trade associations with close ties to both the meatpacking industry and ear tag manufacturers,” he emphasized

“The next step will be to actually help USDA develop the details of this new approach to animal disease traceability, and we will remain directly involved to ensure that the interests of our nation’s independent cattle producers continue to be addressed in this process,” Fox concluded.

# # #

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-CALF USA represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on trade and marketin! g issues. Members are located across 47 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners. R-CALF USA directors and committee chairs are extremely active unpaid volunteers. R-CALF USA 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.

The Associated Press misreported this morning that “The USDA Abandons Stalled Animal ID Program.” A press release issued last Friday by the USDA hints at another fate.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced that USDA will develop a new, flexible framework for animal disease traceability in the United States, and undertake several other actions to further strengthen its disease prevention and response capabilities.

Did you understand that statement? The USDA, after a 15 city listening tour last summer, has decided listening is highly overrated. They seemed to understand, acknowledging hearing “a wide variety of comments during the listening tour.”

A document on USDA web site said, “Some people were in favor of NAIS, but the vast majority of participants were highly critical of the program. Some of the concerns and criticisms raised included confidentiality, liability, cost, privacy, and religion. There were also concerns about NAIS being the wrong priority for USDA, that the system benefits only large-scale producers, and that NAIS is unnecessary because existing animal identification systems are sufficient.”

So they’re trying to re-invent the program, make it more palatable to people who signaled their willingness to stand at the farm gate, armed and dangerous, to prevent any part of a government mandated NAIS from creeping into their business.

If the USDA has trouble reading the tea leaves, let Lorrie Morgan explain it to you.

To be more specific, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “After concluding our listening tour on the National Animal Identification System in 15 cities across the country, receiving thousands of comments from the public and input from States, Tribal Nations, industry groups, and representatives for small and organic farmers, it is apparent that a new strategy for animal disease traceability is needed. I’ve decided to revise the prior policy and offer a new approach to animal disease traceability with changes that respond directly to the feedback we heard.”

What part of no don’t you understand?

The feedback he was talking about was clear, painfully so. Excruciatingly obvious. As plain as the nose on an anteater’s face.

It was “No. Not now. Not ever.”

Most every small farmer and rancher responded with the kind of “cold, dead fingers” response that would gladden the heart of Charlton Heston. Not to repeat myself but I attended two listening sessions; Jeff City and Omaha. The one lone pro-NAIS speaker in Jeff City never finished his spiel. Fearing for his safety, he fled a very hostile audience in mid-speech. The Omaha crowd wasn’t nearly as angry but their message was the same.

It was “No. Not now. Not ever.”

But an ever optimistic Vilsack announced these basic tenets of an ‘improved’ animal disease traceability program. The new plan will –

* Only apply to animals moved in interstate commerce;
* Be administered by the States and Tribal Nations to provide more flexibility;
* Encourage the use of lower-cost technology; and
* Be implemented transparently through federal regulations and the full rulemaking process.

“One of my main goals for this new approach is to build a collaborative process for shaping and implementing our framework for animal disease traceability,” said Vilsack. “We are committed to working in partnership with States, Tribal Nations and industry in the coming months to address many of the details of this framework, and giving ample opportunity for farmers and ranchers and the public to provide us with continued input through this process.”

May I call on Lorrie Morgan, again?

The USDA will convene a forum with animal health leaders for the States and Tribal Nations to initiate a dialogue about ‘possible ways of achieving the flexible, coordinated approach to animal disease traceability we envision.’ Let’s hope they invite all the stakeholders and be prepared to duck and cover.

Chuck Jolley is a free lance writer, based in Kansas City, who covers a wide range of ag industry topics for Cattlenetwork.com and Agnetwork.com.

By Lee Pitts

Darol Dickinson NAIS Activist

Darol Dickinson

NAIS, the national animal identification system, is a big government boondoggle that can easily be compared to President Obama’s plan to borrow trillions of dollars, much of it from the Chinese, to save a bad economy that was created in the first place by too much borrowing. NAIS will NOT make our food safer, but it will most certainly make thousands of small stockmen disappear. It will require ranchers to spend a great deal of money on equipment, inserting the chips, and reporting any changes, with terrible fines for computer errors, acts of nature, or noncompliance. Yet factory farms are exempt from those same rules.

The USDA is pushing it partly to show they are doing something about the pitiful state of food safety, which they have botched BIG TIME. The original NAIS plan caused such a backlash that in November 2006 the USDA backtracked and said, “We must emphasize that NAIS is a voluntary program at the Federal level, and USDA has no plans to make participation in any component of the program mandatory.”

Just as you’d expect, now the USDA is most definitely making noises that the plan must be made mandatory.

If the NAIS gravy train is derailed, most of the credit can be given to one man: Darol Dickinson. The famous Longhorn breeder and artist has already been named a member of the Digest 25, but his efforts on NAIS on behalf of all cattlemen deserve another laudatory trajectory launched in his honor.

Darol remembers when he came to hate the whole idea behind NAIS. “When I attended my first USDA listening session about NAIS the leader lied to everyone. He said NAIS would happen, we would not have a choice, sign up now.” (Needless to say, Darol did not sign up.)

“He said that hoof and mouth would devastate the US cattle business overnight, then with one phone call to Texas A & M, at Uvalde, Texas, I found cattle with Hoof and Mouth were still good to eat and the disease was only a skin thing. He told me Anthrax could sweep the nation and could kill every cow. I made one phone call and found out for 80 cents anyone can buy an Anthrax vaccine and never have an Anthrax problem.”

Darol recalls, “Then the USDA began to give out ‘cooperative agreements’ to hire people to enroll in NAIS premises. I call these agreements more simply, ‘bribes.’ Bribes is what you give someone to do something they don’t want to do, then they do it, against their better judgment. The basis of NAIS was deception without necessity—paid for by all taxpayers. All of the above made my blood boil.” Darol began to paw in the dirt like a mad bull.

“For the first time in my life I had an opportunity to oppose a vicious federales program that would put my fellow livestock producers under with red tape, enforcements, fines and destroy new business. I, by choosing this battle with USDA could save billions in losses to ranchers and honest farmers. At a cost of my own cattle sales over the last 4 years, I have worked 4 to 18 hours a day opposing NAIS.

Darol is one of the leading, if not THE leading Longhorn breeder in the country, and has been for decades. His efforts on NAIS have horribly reduced his business sales and profits. “Had we not sold an occasional high dollar Texas Longhorn bull,” says Darol, “it would not have been possible to fight this nasty war.”

He continues, “From early 2005, after the first smoke was blown up my hub cap from USDA, I have carefully researched NAIS. One after another promises from USDA promoters are either false, worthless or just plain ignorant. The concept of NAIS is designed by white shirted, clean handed veterinarians in marble hall offices with high salaries and retirements that would impress Oprah. The NAIS designers have not stepped in enough nasty corral stuff to know the basic business of livestock.

“The next mystery is why AQHA, NCBA, Farm Bureau, Beef Magazine and Drover Magazine do not stage a hissy-fit opposing NAIS and what it will do to their membership and subscribers. When I can’t understand common sense things, I assume they have been bought, and it is true. The slimy USDA bureaucrats with thick brief cases have made their rounds and millions have been bought to their own guilt and shame.”

Darol’s first attempt at a web sight opposing NAIS was web site www.naisSucks.com. “The name was chosen due to the puking nasty program it is,” says Darol, who, it can be said, is not what you’d call a politically correct person.

“I am not a fair and balanced person,” says Darol. Some publications refused to reference www.naisSUCKS.com due to the off color connotation so Darol changed the name to accommodate kinder, gentler people. “We changed it to www.naisSTINKS.com and retained the same articles.” Either way, when you read a SUCKS or STINKS article it will not leave you straddling a fence by a writer who couldn’t figure it out.

Says Darol, “One of the great early research articles published, as the negative NAIS data begin to boil over the cow piles, was Back Door Bureaucrats [by this writer]. The USDA has such strong advertising ties with most livestock publications that the editor’s bladders get weak when it comes to printing an opposition NAIS article. Not Lee Pitts. He lets it fly like a Johne’s herd sire. His article, available on ‘Stinks,’ is a classic.

“Each time USDA presented NAIS for some quasi-noble reason, a selling USDA article was written for release to all the media—livestock, rodeo, general news, farming, etc. One of 42 STINKS research writers quickly presented the factual opposition in clear detail. The USDA articles were printed without a blink by every back woods and up town publication. The opposition articles were printed in one of 20 of the same publications.

“STINKS sends out daily NAIS opposition articles to over 2,000 bloggers. Two livestock editors in New Mexico informed STINKS not to send NAIS opposition articles to them. The NCBA, Beef Magazine and many others, once considered honest, also refuse to receive opposition NAIS articles. All of these brilliant articles by careful researchers are on www.naisSTINKS.com.

“STINKS is dedicated to complete information opposing NAIS,” says Darol. “The NAIS founders and promoters would destroy the livestock industry, so why should those of us making a living with livestock treat them with any more respect than fecal material in a wedding punch bowl?

“STINKS has 147 reprintable NAIS opposition articles to date. As a complete service government defense site there are cartoons, printable handouts, flyers, videos and a companion blog. During the recent USDA listening sessions reprints from STINKS were handed out at all locations and STINKS research info was quoted. When the USDA prepared a $430,000 NAIS TOOL KIT for all licensed veterinarians, STINKS immediately offered a zero funded NAIS SURVIVAL TOOL KIT. It prints from the site in book form, with index and 15 articles to inform and protect ranchers from government terrorists. When a manuscript is released by a STINKS researcher it goes immediately to 2,100 media and bloggers. It is then forwarded on to more than two million viewers within 24 hours. Every state veterinarian, state NAIS director and most Senators and Congress members receive it.

“Although STINKS researchers are prepared to document and defend every article, most livestock editors do not print opposition information, nor do they respond with any questions about data,” says Darol. “When the first STINKS emails were generated, there were only a few sites with NAIS opposition. Now 4 years later there are organizations in every state, hundreds of sites with featured NAIS opposition information, Yahoo groups in every state, attorneys that have resigned their jobs to oppose NAIS full time, ranchers who have been forced to become activists, and writers to defend the family businesses. Google records today 377,000 articles for “NAIS opposition.”

The next step for Darol’s web site is to look into what should be viewed as bribery, plain and simple.

“Bureaucrats have received generous ‘gifts’ from industry businesses that plan to profit from a mandatory NAIS,” according to Darol. “In the future, the humble livestock producers will hammer bureaucrats that have had NO oversight, and sucked the pot dry with their blood thirst, draining the livestock industry. Unless Washington can grab themselves by the pants and listen to the 95% of livestock producers who oppose NAIS, there will be pitch forks and cow manure in their town. Cowboys are tired of human burdizzos, gutless editors, and ruthless enforcements planned for the innocent.”

Darol Dickinson has had a remarkable career in the livestock industry. Stopping NAIS would be the crowning achievement, and every rancher in America will owe him one huge THANK YOU.

Washington, D.C. — In a hand-delivered letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, sixteen groups called the agency’s practice of using inadequate international standards and the OTM Rule to leverage global export markets into conformity with weaker disease standards “deplorable.” The OTM Rule was implemented in 2007 and authorizes the importation into the U.S. of older Canadian cattle that have a higher-risk for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The groups state they disagree with the “uncritical deference” that Vilsack has accorded the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), which recently designated both the U.S. and Canada as ‘controlled risk’ countries for BSE. According to a letter R-CALF USA received from Vilsack , the agency believes the OIE’s designation provides assurance that measures are in place in both countries to manage ‘any possible risk of BSE in the cattle population,’ and that cattle and beef can be ‘safely traded by both nations.’

But the groups state that USDA is wrong to rely on the weaker OIE standards and that Vilsack’s stated position is inconsistent with Congress’ mandate “to protect animal health and the health and welfare of the people of the United States by preventing the introduction into or spread within the United States of BSE.” The groups urged Vilsack to carry out his congressional mandate by rescinding the OTM Rule.

The groups state also that Vilsack’s position is directly contradicted by his agency’s own risk assessment model that predicts that under the OTM Rule, the U.S. “will introduce 19 BSE-infected cattle from Canada over the course of 20 years,” and two U.S. cattle would become infected. In addition, the groups state that USDA “estimates the cost to U.S. cattle producers, for the privilege of begin exposed to a heightened risk for BSE from Canadian cattle and beef, would be over $66 million per year (or approx. $1.3 million each week), for which no c! ompensation can be obtained from anyone.”

The letter states that the OTM Rule is a human and animal health issue. “Clearly, the OTM Rule is increasing the risk of introducing BSE into the U.S. from Canada, increasing the risk of infection of BSE in both U.S. cattle and in humans, and causing tens of millions of dollars in financial losses for U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers.”

Along with R-CALF USA, the following 15 organizations joined the letter to urge Vilsack to immediately rescind the OTM Rule: Buckeye Quality Beef Association (OH), Cattle Producers of Washington, Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association, Independent Beef Association of North Dakota, Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming, Kansas Cattlemen’s Association, Kansas Farmers Union, Missouri Farmers Union, National Farmers Organization, Nebraska Farmers Union, Nevada Live Stock Association, Oregon Livestock Producers Association, Ozarks Property Rights Congress (MO), and the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association.

As NAIS becomes a less relevant, useless, bad USDA idea, BEEF Magazine, and other smaller circulation media, grope in the dark hunting some simple benefit, or some lack of pain to encourage NAIS implementation. A wheel barrow load of ideas have been falsely exploited wrongly promising virtues of, profitable source verification, export sales expansion, world trade compliance, useful carcass data for breeders, and even (ho ho ho) economy of application.  All of these fail to hold water, as this article reveals, the NAIS proposed data is “FOR PRIVATE USDA EYES ONLY.”  None of the above promises, virtues, claims or assumptions are of any value to US ranchers, nor ever were.  USDA has squeezed the NAIS purpose down to, “nothing more than information from a phone book,” according to USDA’s chief veterinary officer, John Clifford.
Snicker through this December 14, 2006 Iowa Farmer Today article, from their archives, resurrected from the dead, for the December 2009 issue, designed to entice livestock producers to fear not, and try to dance with NAIS one more song.  The thrust — bring in enough attorneys and it can be simplified enough to be palatable?    What!!!
Darol Dickinson, www.naisSTINKS.com

Financial Sense Editorials

NAIS privacy not black and white issue

By Gene Lucht and Jeff DeYoung, Iowa Farmer Today
Thursday, December 14, 2006 8:27 AM CST

Privacy has been a central issue in the debate over whether to make a National Animal Identification System mandatory or voluntary.

“It’s a legitimate concern,” says Doug O’Brien, a staff attorney at the Drake University Agricultural Law Center in Des Moines.

But, O’Brien, who also works at the National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas, says the issues are not black and white. Instead, they are shades of gray. Many could be addressed in the drafting of legislation that could be written to implement a national system.

“It’s fairly complicated,” O’Brien says of an ID program. “The ground is shifting on this.”

But, in the debate over a mandatory vs. a voluntary plan, privacy has been a driving factor.

John Clifford, USDA’s chief veterinary officer at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), agrees privacy has been a central issue.

“Confidentiality is definitely a concern to the private sector,” Clifford says. “We will have the premises identification database, which is nothing more than information from a phone book.

“Federal law will protect the confidential information from disclosure. We will have access to that data in the event of an occurrence.”

O’Brien says that could be addressed in a mandatory system.

There are really two confidentiality issues, he explains. The first is over whether information about animals and their owners could be gotten from the government through a Freedom of Information request. The federal Freedom of Information Act requests would appear to apply to any information gathered by the government about animals.

But, O’Brien says there are nine exemptions to the act that are stipulated in the law, and several could reasonably apply to this situation. For example, there is an exception for confidential business information. Another protects released information that would make it difficult to run a program. These items have been factors in the federal price-reporting law.

Those concerns could be addressed by writing specific statute language that would prohibit such release of information.

The second concern is the potential for government agencies to share the information gathered for a government program.

Again, that could be handled through specific language in a new ID law or it could be part of language to be included in contracts between farmers and the government, O’Brien says.

There are privacy concerns with private ownership of information in a voluntary program.

Farmers might want to make sure federal code or contracts with those private groups would ban the selling of sharing of that information with private groups that might try to use the information for their private gain.

Follow The Money

There are around 2.5 Billion Farm Animals that the USDA wants to track under the proposed National Animal Identification System. If and when this tracking system is put into place, it will mean two things:

1. A small number of private interests will make out big financially by supplying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tracking devices and software to livestock producers.

2. Small producers, unable to cope with the costly technology demands associated with animal tracking, could be forced to give up their farms and ranches — allowing major players like Cargill, Smithfield and Tyson to exercise an even greater control of meat production.1,2

For the time being, the animal tracking program is voluntary, though the USDA has invested more than $125 million in the last five years3 trying to create the support and infrastructure needed to advance a mandatory NAIS for livestock. In particular, tracking cattle is a high priority for the agency because it is seen as a way to restore international confidence in American beef after the discovery of mad cow disease devastated the industry in 2003. Much of this money has gone toward registering farm premises where livestock are found throughout the United States into a central database, the first step in creating a national animal-tracking program.

In order to advance the NAIS agenda, the USDA agreed in 2005 to begin privatizing parts of the system,4 creating another incentive for powerful industry trade groups to support the program. By providing the hardware, software and tracking technology, private industry groups and technology companies have already been able to extract millions of dollars from the proposed NAIS.

NAIS is the product of more than a decade of planning — mostly by the private sector — but only really gained momentum as an animal health measure seven years ago in response to the discovery of mad cow disease in the United States. NAIS continues to be as much the product of private industry and the non-profit trade groups that represent it as it is the USDA. Like wolves in sheep’s clothing, these trade organizations loudly promote an animal-tracking system as necessary for the meat industry while positioning themselves or their industry partners to possibly reap the windfall revenues that a mandatory animal-tracking program would generate.

The Costs

In April 2009, the USDA released a cost-benefit analysis of NAIS which estimates that a full-traceability animaltracking system will cost the livestock industry alone $209 million annually.5 The most costly part of NAIS involves Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), which could cost about $100 million for cattle alone.6 The preferred method of tagging and tracing cattle, RFID uses tiny radio transmitters about the size of a grain of rice that are either implanted into an animal or into an ear tag that the animal wears. In theory, this technology gives livestock producers and slaughterhouses the ability to quickly “scan” each animal and determine where it came from, which could help trace diseases in the event of an outbreak.

RFID technology is extremely costly for ranchers, but extremely lucrative for private technology providers. Currently only nine RFID manufacturers are recognized by the USDA as approved providers of the devices,7 and a handful seem to have emerged as the dominant competitors, vying for the tens of millions of dollars in revenue8 that a mandatory NAIS would generate each year.

These RFID providers will likely generate revenue disproportionately from small livestock producers. USDA estimates show that among livestock producers that don’t currently tag their beef cattle, the smallest producers — those with fewer than 50 head of cattle — would incur the highest RFID costs as a group, amounting to almost $35 million dollars a year.9 This is approximately how much all other beef cattle producers combined would pay.

For small livestock producers working on tight profit margins, these costs could be devastating. Larger producers have deep pockets and the advantage of economies of scale, allowing them to more easily adjust to the technological requirements of NAIS, a point that the USDA readily acknowledges.10 The USDA estimates that the RFID costs per head of cattle are somewhere between 30 and 200 percent greater for the smallest producers than the largest producers under a full-traceability NAIS,11 in part because big producers can buy larger quantities of RFID tags at a discount. Some estimates of the high costs small producers will pay are much higher than the USDA’s,12 with numbers surpassing $40 a head (about five times greater than the USDA estimate) when costs of RFID readers are included.13

The costs that livestock producers could incur under NAIS include: buying an RFID tag for each animal, buying an RFID applicator, paying someone to implant the device, buying an RFID reader, buying a computer and paying monthly internet services, creating the necessary infrastructure on a farm to support animal tracking, and providing the time and labor needed to register individual animals in an Animal Tracking Database — which is also a privatized venture, mostly controlled by a small number of corporations and private interests.

Consumers will have to pay The costs and time needed to comply with program requirements would give the largest operations a competitive advantage. This further promotes an unhealthy control of the meat market among a handful of corporations. Ironically, large-scale operators use confinement methods and feeding practices that are viewed by many as increasing the risk of animal diseases that NAIS would track.

The Players

Consider the Kansas Farm Bureau, a non-profit group that, according to its Web site, “represents grassroots agriculture” and “supports farm families who earn their living in a changing industry.”14

In carrying out these missions, the bureau has also managed to position itself to be a major beneficiary of the tech-fest that would unfold under mandatory NAIS. The Kansas Farm Bureau aggressively promotes its Beef Verification Solution, an animal-tracking program developed though its Agriculture Solutions division, in conjunction with AgInfoLink,15 a private tech company16 that could be one of the leading beneficiaries of a mandatory NAIS. The Beef Verification Solution, according to the Web site, is the “one-stop shop for ISO compliant, USDA approved radio frequency identification (RFID) ear tags, RFID readers and data collection software.”17

Essentially, by contracting with private tech companies like AgInfoLink and using its members as its customer base, the Kansas Farm Bureau could generate large revenues for both itself and its private-sector partners.

And measured by the support it has received so far, the Kansas Farm Bureau seems to have done pretty well for itself. The Beef Verification Solution has received the endorsement of numerous trade groups and fellow farm bureaus in big cattle-producing states like Colorado,18 Oklahoma19 and Nebraska.20 The American Farm Bureau, the parent organization to all the state affiliates,21 has endorsed the program, too.22 By 2007, the Kansas Farm Bureau was boasting that the Beef Verification Solution was primed to capitalize on 24 percent of the cattle market.23

In marketing the Beef Verification Solution, the Kansas Farm Bureau and its partners encourage cattle producers to use other services provided by AgInfoLink,24 one of six companies offering an animal-tracking database that the USDA considers fully functioning and capable of providing traceability.25 In addition to promoting AgInfoLink’s CattleCards and BeefLink software,26 the Kansas Farm Bureau apparently also promotes business for the providers of RFID hardware, including the company Allflex.27

Illinois Beef Association (IBA)

In addition to its partnerships with the farm bureaus, AgInfoLink has also partnered with the Illinois Beef Association (IBA),28 a state-level affiliate of the powerful trade group the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA),29 whose industry partners include corporate meatpackers like Cargill, Smithfield and Tyson.30

From October 2006 to September 2007, during which time the IBA began endorsing AgInfoLink, the organization received $1.2 million from the beef checkoff,31 a government- initiated program that requires every cattle farmer in America to pay one dollar for every slaughtered head of cattle, supposedly to promote beef.32 Most of that money, which amounts to around $45 million a year,33 ends up in the hands of the NCBA34 and its affiliates like the IBA.35 It needs to be examined whether the NCBA is using this money in its efforts to promote an animal identification program, which would stand in contrast to its mission of supporting the interests of ranchers and cattle producers, many of whom may not support animal tracking.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA)

The NCBA, which collects around $45 million dollars a year in beef checkoff money,36 has worked as a major stakeholder in the development of NAIS, hoping that an animal-tracking program would have been in place by 2007.37 In that year, an NCBA affiliate called the National Cattlemen’s Foundation38 entered into a cooperative agreement with the USDA39 to help register farm premises — part of a push to expand the NAIS database. Shortly before cooperative agreement was announced, the National Cattlemen’s Foundation received more than $2 million from the USDA.40

Back in 2004, the NCBA began working with private technology groups that would benefit financially from NAIS. Called the Beef Information Exchange and apparently comprised of a group of animal-tracking service providers, the group was promoted by one of NCBA’s members, Mark Armentrout, who was also the chief operating officer of AgInfoLink Global, Inc.41

Additionally, the NCBA sits with the American Farm Bureau on the board the United States Animal Identification Organization (USAIO),42,43 which has its own NAIScompliant Animal Tracking Database,44 a potentially big money-maker should NAIS become mandatory.

Most of the big names in animal identification have aligned themselves with NCBA, sometimes making cash donations to the organization. Both Allflex USA and Schering-Plough Animal Health (Schering-Plough owns Global Animal Management), two approved technology providers for NAIS, donated $100,000 to the NCBA to become “Allied Industry Partner” Gold Level Sponsors.45

The Sunset of Family Farming as we know it?

Other technology providers like Destron-Fearing, Y-Tex and AgInfoLink count themselves as allied Industry Council members or associates.46

United States Animal Identification Organization (USAIO)

Established to “oversee a database solution for tracking animals”47 and built with members from some of the most powerful farm groups, the USAIO seems to have an interest in controlling a database for tracking animals — and perhaps benefiting from the huge revenues that would come with it.

Like the National Cattlemen’s Foundation, the USAIO entered into a cooperative agreement with the USDA to register farm premises. Shortly before the agreement was announced, the USDA awarded the USAIO $1.5 million in taxpayer money.48 The group planned to register as many as 100,000 new farm premises under the agreement, the first step toward initiating a fully functional National Animal Identification System.49

The USDA has put $9 million toward these cooperative agreements,50 with non-profit organizations51,52 that frequently have close ties to industry. As one USDA official said about these organizations, “In many cases, these groups don’t just represent industry, they are industry…”53

Big players like Microsoft may also leverage their financial power and political connections if NAIS becomes a mandatory program. In 2006, the USAIO teamed up with Microsoft and a company called Viatrace to offer what they called an “industry-led, multispecies animal tracking database to record movements of livestock from point of origin to processing.”54

One report indicates that USAIO disbanded in 2007,55 but the group’s animal-tracking database remains on the current USDA list of approved providers.

Agri Beef

Agri Beef, a vertically integrated cattle operation56 that regularly ranks as one of the largest in America,57,58 serves as the first point of contact for USAIO’s Animal Tracking Database.59 Though the exact relationship between the USAIO, a non-profit group, and Agri Beef, a for-profit meat producer, is unclear, it seems that their animal-tracking database could generate big money for both the groups.

Piercing pain in the ear!The vice president of Agri Beef is Rick Stott,60 listed as one of a handful of members on the USAIO in 2006.61 He also has served as a member of major industry groups like the NCBA.62 And Stott worked on a governmentsponsored pilot NAIS project in the Pacific Northwest called the Northwest Pilot Project,63 reportedly worth more than a million dollars.64

As the chairman of the project, which was administered by the Idaho Cattlemen Association65 (affiliated with the NCBA66), Stott was able to help shape and test a pilot NAIS program based on the proposed national system, which he, his employer and his industry friends could benefit from enormously.

But also disconcerting is that Stott, as the head of a pilot project, apparently was overseeing the collection and processing of private data of dozens of other cattle producers participating in the program67 — essentially giving him access to proprietary information about his competitors. Big agribusiness groups have pushed the USDA to keep the animal-tracking databases out of government’s hands, claiming that any other arrangement would subject a company’s data to Freedom of Information Act requests or new government regulations.68,69 But keeping the database in the hands of big agribusiness — whether with private companies or the trade industries that represent big agribusiness — could force small livestock producers to disclose confidential information about their operations (size of herd, types of animals, etc.) to competitors or the companies they sell to.

The Money Funnel

The financial windfall that has fallen from government to the private sector with NAIS has been mighty, and there seems to be no end in sight. The federal government has already spent more than $125 million on the development of NAIS,70 funneling money into private industries and state governments to promote the animaltracking program.

Though NAIS is not yet a mandatory program, many technology providers have already benefitted financially in a big way. Global Animal Management71 and Digital Angel72 have both received more than half a million dollars in government contracts for animal tracking devices, while Allflex has raked in close to $1 million.73

It is important to note that these companies spend money in lobbying efforts around NAIS. The owner of Global Animal Management, a large pharmaceutical corporation called Schering-Plough, plowed millions of dollars a year into lobbying efforts in both 2007 and 2008, some of it on animal identification issues.74 Between 2004 and 2007, Digital Angel spent more than a million dollars on lobbying efforts75 and Allflex spent an undisclosed amount (under $10,000)76 in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

More disconcerting, it appears that two of these three competitors have partnered, further reducing competition among RFID providers. In 2008, Digital Angel and Global Animal Management (owned by Schering-Plough) announced a deal in which Digital Angel would acquire the rights to Global Animal Management’s RFID tag77, 78 made by Geissler Technology.79

Digital Angel’s acquisition of a competitor’s RFID-technology could prove to be a wise investment. As part of its 2009 budget, the USDA plans to spend millions of dollars on a campaign directed at the cattle industry called “840 Start Up.”80 The ‘840’ refers to the United States’ three digit country code that precedes animal identification numbers. The number also refers to the RFID devices that can store and transmit the ID numbers. As more and more farm premises are registered in a national database, the next step in NAIS is to outfit all farm animals with these 840 RFID tags.

This is the meat that you will be paying much more for if this dastardly NAIS program goes into effect!!And because RFID devices are sold by privately owned companies, the USDA’s multi-million dollar “840 Start Up” campaign may really serve to funnel millions of dollars into the bank accounts of the few tech companies that have been approved to sell these products.

Whether it is taxpayers or the farmers themselves who would end up paying for the technology under NAIS, it is clear that it will be the tech companies and the trade organizations they align with that will benefit.

Case Study: Wisconsin

One of the best places to follow the money behind NAIS is Wisconsin, where the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium (WLIC) and its partner group, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection (WDATCP)81 have managed to secure close to $7 million in federal funding and more than a million dollars in non-federal funding over the last eight years.82,83 Bolstered by a state law requiring every farm premises to be registered in a central database, these groups are serving as administrators of what amounts to a state-level pilot project for NAIS.

The WLIC, a consortium of private industry stakeholders and government agencies, has used these federal tax dollars to fund groups that could benefit financially from NAIS. By the middle of 2005, WLIC reportedly was funding more than a dozen research projects valued at close to $400,000, with money going to the Wisconsin Pork Association,84 which currently sits on the WLIC board of directors, and Smithfield, a current member of WLIC.85

WLIC was founded in 2002 as “a proactive, livestock industry- driven effort”86 with a mission “to create a secure, nationally compatible livestock identification system.”87 The members and affiliates of the consortium read like a laundry list of the corporate and private interests that stand to gain from a mandatory NAIS. The big animal-ID tech companies, like AgInfoLink, Digital Angel, Global Animal Management, Y-Tex and Allflex USA, are all represented as members.88

In coalition with the Wisconsin Department of Trade and Consumer Protection, the WLIC has developed its own USDA-compliant Animal Tracking Database — one of six that the USDA considers fully functional and capable of providing traceability.89

The push for animal tracking in Wisconsin, however, has not gone smoothly. Some farmers continue to resist registering their premises or participating in animal identification — either because of privacy or property rights concerns, or, in the case of Amish farmers, on religious grounds.90 In 2007, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture began sending letters to dairy farmers on unregistered premises indicating their milk production licenses could be revoked if they failed to register their farms.91 This threat, which would have essentially forced non-compliant dairy farmers to go out of business, was eventually softened,92 but to critics of NAIS, it demonstrates the heavy-handed tactics that government agencies are willing to use to promote the program.

Case Study: Michigan

Government approved cows tagged with fascist RFID tags!The state of Michigan has gone a step farther than Wisconsin, issuing a requirement that every head of cattle in the state must now have an RFID tag, essentially creating a state-wide mandatory animal-tracking system.93 Additionally, Michigan is using an animal-tracking system maintained by Holstein Association USA,94 a large nonprofit industry group.

Until late spring 2009, the Michigan Department of Agriculture’s Web site directed farmers needing to purchase the mandatory RFID tags to Holstein Association USA, which sells tags at $2 each,95 plus a $20 fee for the applicator,96 the tool that attaches the ear tag to the cow. (A recent update to the site now includes another tag provider, but the site still emphasizes Holstein Association USA.) In 2007, the state announced that cattle producers had bought more than one million RFID tags.97 That represents at least $2 million in sales, with the proceeds apparently going to Holstein Association USA and the provider of its tags, a company called Allflex.98 In addition to the revenues it may generate from the RFID hardware, Holstein Association USA also serves as the administrator99 of Michigan’s animal-tracking database,100 which could provide another source of revenue. In 2007, Holstein Association USA boasted that its animal-tracking database is one of the world’s largest, with more than 5 million cows registered.101

When the state of Michigan began requiring all livestock owners to register and tag their farm animals and then directing farmers to a single purchasing option for the animal-tracking hardware and software, the state essentially funneled millions of dollars into the Holstein/ Allflex partnership.

(If you diligently scour the Michigan Department of Agriculture’s Web site, you find that you can also order RFID tags from Northstar Cooperative,102 which sells tags from Allflex and one other tech company, Digital Angel.103 The USDA has declared nine different RFID-providers as NAIS-compliant, so it is unclear why the state of Michigan would direct its livestock producers to a single provider.104)

On top of these de facto state subsidies to Holstein Association USA, the federal government has also given the group millions of dollars directly. Holstein Association USA has received more than $3 million in federal funding between 2000 and 2007 to develop animal-tracking programs.105

NAIS Failure

If you take a hard look at the money associated with NAIS, you find that the numbers don’t add up to a net benefit for consumers or livestock producers. The government has invested $125 million so far trying to promote NAIS, a program that will cost producers $200 million a year. These huge sums of money guarantee very little in terms of improved food safety because the tracking ends at slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants where most food safety problems occur. The money the USDA is plowing into NAIS would go far further if it were used instead to bolster existing food safety programs and existing animal health programs that aim to prevent disease.

The costs associated with NAIS threaten to increase the price of meat for consumers and to ruin the businesses of countless small producers, who would bear significantly greater financial pressure relative to larger producers adapting to the technological demands of NAIS. Because NAIS favors large-scale industrialized operations, which have deeper pockets to pay for the necessary technology, and puts financial pressure on small producers, a mandatory NAIS could contribute to a further concentration of the livestock industry among a few corporations.106

Indeed, the only sure outcome of NAIS are the windfall rewards, which tech companies and the trade groups that support them are currently jockeying to catch. The consortiums they form with private technology providers and federal and state governments are too cozy and too lucrative to give the system an appearance of anything but a cash cow for corporate beneficiaries. The tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money that has already poured into NAIS has done more to enrich a handful of money-minded organizations than to ensure food safety, and it is time that the USDA jettison this program.


Endnotes

1 Duffey, Patrick. “Dismantling of Farmland continues; Smithfield buying pork business.” USDA Rural Development. November 2003.

2 Heffernan, William and Mary Hendrickson. “Concentration of Agricultural Markets.” Department of Rural Sociology, University of Missouri. April 2007. http://nfu.org/issues/economic-policy/ resources/heffernan-report

3 USDA. “A business plan to advance animal disease traceability.” September 2008 at 41.

4 USDA. “A business plan to advance animal disease traceability.” September 2008 at 51.

5 USDA. “Benefit-Cost Analysis of the National Animal Identification System.” January 14, 2009 at Table 4.10.

6 USDA. “Benefit-Cost Analysis of the National Animal Identification System.” January 14, 2009 at Table 4.10.

7 USDA. List of approved NAIS devices. animalid.aphis.usda.gov/ nais/naislibrary/documents/guidelines/NAIS_ID_Tag_Web_ Listing.pdf

8 USDA. “Benefit-Cost Analysis of the National Animal Identification System.” January 14, 2009 at Table 4.10.

9 USDA. “Benefit-Cost Analysis of the National Animal Identification System.” January 14, 2009 at Table 4.2.

10 USDA. See “Benefit-Cost Analysis of the National Animal Identification System.” January 14, 2009 at 24, 29, 48.

11 USDA. “Benefit-Cost Analysis of the National Animal Identification System.” January 14, 2009 at Table 4.2.

12 Blasi, Dale et al. “Estimated Costs of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) Systems.” 2005. http://beefstockerusa.org/rfid/. 2005.

13 Cattlenetwork. “Jolley: Five Minutes With Dr. Dale Blasi, Kansas State University.” May 8, 2009. http://www.cattlenetwork.com/ content.asp?ContentId=313299

14 Kansas Farm Bureau. “About Us.” http://www.kfb.org/aboutus/aboutus.htm

15 Kansas Farm Bureau. “Knowledge IS Power: The Value of Knowing Your Cow Herd From the Inside Out.” December 2008.

16 AgInfoLink “About Us” and “Locations.” http://www.aginfolink.com/aboutus.html and http://www.aginfolink.com/web/locations/ locations.htm

17 Agricultural Solutions. “Beef Verification Solution Program Description.” http://www.agsolusa.com/bvs/Aboutus.htm.

18 Kansas Farm Bureau. “KFB’s Beef Verification Solution Partners With Colorado Farm Bureau.” November 16, 2007.

19 Kansas Farm Bureau. “KFB’s Beef Verification Solution Partners With Oklahoma Farm Bureau.” July 24, 2007.

20 Kansas Farm Bureau. “Beef Verification Solution Partners With Nebraska Farm Bureau.” February 1, 2007 Kansas Farm Bureau. “Increasing the Value of this Year’s Calf Crop.” August 29, 2007.

21 American Farm Bureau. http://www.fb.org/index. php?fuseaction=newsroom.statefbs

22 American Farm Bureau. “Excitement Building for New Animal ID System.” January 8, 2006

23 Kansas Farm Bureau. “Increasing the Value of this Year’s Calf Crop.” August 29, 2007.

24 Kansas Farm Bureau. “Increasing the Value of this Year’s Calf Crop.” August 29, 2007. 25 USDA. National Animal Identification System Compliant Animal Tracking Databases Status Report.

26 Kansas Farm Bureau. “Knowledge IS Power: The Value of Knowing Your Cow Herd From the Inside Out.” December 2008.

27 Kansas Farm Bureau. “KFB’s Beef Verification Solution Now Offers More Radio Frequency ID Tag Choices.” July 3, 2008.

28 AgInfoLink. “AgInfoLink and Illinois Beef Association Team Up on Animal Information Services; Wellman Joins AgInfoLink Staff.” April 17, 2007

29 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “State Affiliates.” http://www.beefusa.org/affistateaffiliates.aspx

30 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “Allied Industry Partners.” www.beefusa.org/affialliedindustrypartners.aspx

31 IRS 990 form. 2007 at 8.

32 Cattlemen’s Beef Board. “Financial & Audit.” http://www.beefboard.org/financial/financial_audit.asp

33 Cattlemen’s Beef Board. “Annual Report.” 2008 at 13. http://www.beefboard.org/library/annual-reports.asp

34 Cattlemen’s Beef Board. “Annual Report. 2008 at 14. http://www.beefboard.org/library/annual-reports.asp

35 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. http://www.beefusa.org/affistateaffiliates.aspx

36 Cattlemen’s Beef Board. Annual Report. 2008 at 14. http://www.beefboard.org/library/annual-reports.asp

37 Cattlemen’s Beef Board. Long-Range Plan 2010. 2006. http://www.beefboard.org/library/annual-reports.asp

38 990 IRS Form. 2007.

39 USDA. “National Cattlemens Foundation Partners With USDA To Register Premises As Part of the National Animal Identification System.” November 30, 2007.

40 Information found at www.usaspending.gov.

41 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. 2004 Beef Business Bulletin Stories Archive. “Industry Seeks Private Sector Animal ID System.” 2004.

42 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “USAIO Statement on USDA’s National Animal Identification System Implementation Plan.” April 6, 2006.

43 Nebraska Cattlemen Newsline. “Independent Consortium Formed To Manage National Animal ID Database.” January 18, 2006.

44 USDA. National Animal Identification System Compliant Animal Tracking Databases Status Report.

45 Information Available online at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Web site (www.beefusa.org), under “Allied Industry Partners.”

46 Information Available online at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Web site (www.beefusa.org), under “Allied Industry Partners.”

47 American Farm Bureau Federation. “Shawcroft Selected to Animal ID Organization.” March 31, 2006.

48 Found at USAspending.gov. The USDA has only ever awarded the USAIO one cooperative agreement, which was worth $1.5 million and which happened in close proximity to the USDA announcement of its NAIS agreement the USAIO.

49 USDA. “U.S. Animal Identification Organization Promotes National Animal Identification System.” July 17, 2007.

50 USDA. “A Business Plan to Advance Animal Disease Traceability.” September 2008 at 44.

51 USDA. “USDA Announces Plans to Expand National Animal Identification System Cooperative Agreements to Nonprofit Organizations.” Feb. 2, 2007

52 USDA. “A Plan to Advance Animal Disease Traceability.” At 36.

53 Email from Ed Curlett to “Community Outreach Partners.” January 16, 2007.

54 Microsoft. “High-Tech Animal Database Launched to Help Ensure U.S. Livestock Producers Maintain Competitive Edge in the Global Marketplace.” March 1, 2006

55 Northwest Pilot Project. “Final Report: Addendum.” June 2007 at 15.

56 Agri Beef. “Agri Beef Co. Partners with Loomis Cattle Company to Develop the Finest Beef in the Northwest.”

57 Peck, Clint. “Northwest Entrepreneur.” Beef Magazine. Jan 1, 2002.

58 Northwest Farm Credit Services. “Industry Perspective, Feedlot.” 2007.

59 USDA. National Animal Identification System Compliant Animal Tracking Databases Status Report.

60 Agri Beef Company. Information found at http://www.Agri Beef.com/Agri Beefco/contact.asp

61 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “USAIO Statement on USDA’s National Animal Identification System Implementation Plan.” April 6, 2006.

62 NCBA. “National ID Program for Livestock on Track, Cattlemen Say.” September 28, 2005.

63 Northwest Pilot Project. “Final Report.” 2006 at 34. http://www. northwestpilot.org

64 Evans, Tony. “A Beeper for Every Cow.” Boise Weekly. June 21, 2006.

65 Ibid.

66 Idaho Cattle Association. “About ICA.” http://www.idahocattle. org/about.dsp

67 Northwest Pilot Project. “Final Report.” http://www.northwestpilot. org

68 American Farm Bureau. “Stallman says NAIS requires producer involvement.” September 28, 2005.

Farm families like this will be driven out of existance.

69 Oklahoma Farm Report. “NCBA Continues to Worry About Mandatory Animal ID.” May 8, 2009.

70 USDA. “A business plan to advance animal disease traceability.” September 2008 at 41.

71 Information found at http://www.usaspending.gov

72 Information found at http://www.usaspending.gov

73 Information found at http://www.usaspending.gov

74 Information found at http://www.opensecrets.org

75 Information found at http://www.opensecrets.org

76 Information found at http://www.opensecrets.org

77 Digital Angel. “Digital Angel’s Recent Acquisition of Geissler Technologies Expands Company’s Commercial Relationship with Schering-Plough.” January 18, 2008

78 Global Animal Management. “Program Compliant Tags.” October 14, 2008. https://www.mygamonline.com/trimerit/images/ approvedtaglist.pdf

79 USDA. “National Animal Identification System: Official Animal Identification Number (AIN) Devices.” December 10, 2008.

80 USDA. “A Business Plan to Advance Animal Disease Traceability.” September 2008 at 47.

81 Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection. www.datcp.state.wi.us/premises/index.jsp

82 Data for the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium found at www.usaspending.gov and www.fedspending.org

83 Data for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture found at www. usaspending.gov and www.fedspending.org

84 National Hog Farmer. Wisconsin Funds ID Projects National Hog Farmer. June 15, 2005

85 “Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium (WLIC) Board, Members, Ex Officio and Staff.” http://www.wiid.org.

86 Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium (WLIC). “WLIC History.” http://www.wiid.org.

87 Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium (WLIC). “WLIC Philosophy.” http://www.wiid.org.

88 “Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium (WLIC) Board, Members, Ex Officio and Staff.” http://www.wiid.org.

89 USDA. “National Animal Identification System Compliant Animal Tracking Databases Status Report.” March 19, 2009.

90 Jones, Tim. “Using modern laws to keep Amish ways.” Chicago Tribune. September 20, 2008.

91 Leaf, Nathan. “Livestock Registration Law Opposed.” Wisconsin State Journal. April 25, 2007.

92 Hundt, Tim. “Premises ID Enforcement Put on Hold.” Vernon County Broadcaster. May 2, 2007.

93 Michigan Department of Agriculture. “Questions and Answers for Mandatory Cattle Identification Program.” http://www.michigan. gov/mda/0,1607,7-125–137059–,00.html

94 Michigan Department of Agriculture. “Electronic Identification Program.” http://www.michigan.gov/mda/0,1607,7-125-48096_ 48149-86002–,00.html

95 Michigan Department of Agriculture. “Order Bovine Tags.” http://www.michigan.gov/mda/0,1607,7-125-48096_48149-172 599–,00.html

96 Personal communication with Holstein Association USA sales associate.

97 State of Michigan. “One Million Electronic ID tags purchased by Michigan Beef and Dairy Producers.” November 8, 2007. Found at http://www.michigan.gov

98 Holstein Association USA. http://www.holsteinusa.com/animal_ id/tag_id.html

99 USDA. Food Safety Research Information Office. “Animal Identification Pilot Project.” Available online at: fsrio.nal.usda.gov/ research/fsheets/fsheet12.pdf

100 Michigan Department of Agriculture. “Electronic Identification Program.” http://www.michigan.gov/mda/0,1607,7-125-48096_ 48149-86002–,00.html

101 Holstein Association USA. “Holstein Association USA Approved by USDA as a Compliant Animal Tracking Database.” October 18, 2007

102 Michigan Department of Agriculture. “Questions and Answers for Mandatory Cattle Identification Program.” http://www.michigan. gov/mda/0,1607,7-125–137059–,00.html

103 Northstar Cooperative. http://www.northstarcooperative.com/ dhia/ProductsAndServices/spryRFID.html

www.Foodandwaterwatch.org104 Several places on the Web site such as “Order Bovine Eartags” direct you to Holstein USA, although in late spring 2009 some portions of the website did add Northstar Cooperative to the page. However, if you download a PDF entitled “Mandatory Cattle Identification Program Q & A,” the question-and-answer number-23 informs you that you can also order RFID tags from Northstar Cooperative.

105 Information found at http://www.usaspending.gov

106 Heffernan, William and Mary Hendrickson. “Concentration of Agricultural Markets.” Department of Rural Sociology, University of Missouri. April 2007. http://nfu.org/issues/economic-policy/ resources/heffernan-report

Congress has decided to underfund the controversial National Animal Identification System for another year to with a meager $5.3 million. Chump change for the overspending D.C. pols, not even a rounding error when you look at the current state of federal funding. It’s just enough, I think, for them to have what’s called ‘plausible deniability’ when pro-NAIS groups come to the hill accusing them of killing the program outright.

Better to leave it to a slow, underfunded death.

Congress had pumped up NAIS with $142 million since it began in 2004. With a war chest of that size, the USDA managed to register slightly more than a third of animal premises. Last year, the USDA got $14.2 million for NAIS, but registration increased by only three percent. To hear some tell it, more than a few of those registrations were either forced or done without prior knowledge. Before anyone throws a flag on that statement, I consider requiring a 4 H’er to sign up the family farm before he or she can show an animal at a state fair to be tantamount to forced registration and an almost unforgiveable breach of trust.

Steven Wright, an oddball comic, said “I intend to live forever. So far, so good.” We can say the same thing about NAIS. It was intended to live forever and we can repeat the sardonic “So far, so good” about it but the program will ultimately die, a victim federal mishandling of the concept and a serious misread of the attitudes of small farmers. Most of them are an independent, ornery bunch happiest when the feds stay within walking distance of the Potomac.

They are scared half-to-death when they hear some variation of “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” They know federal help never comes without serious strings attached and trailing enough paperwork to keep them out of the fields for weeks on end.

Many of those who fought against NAIS are happy that the funding has been cut but still express concern that there are any dollars still behind it. In a surprisingly understated comment from the usually fire-breathing Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF, he said, “We’re disappointed with the decision.”

I think we can safely assume, though, that he will still go after the remnants of the program with hammer and tong, bayoneted rifle, nail-studded club and finally, knife and fork. Unless the USDA can pull off some last-second Hail Mary play, there will be a celebratory barbecue in downtown Billings, Montana.

Bottom line: Regardless of the original intent, when the vast majority of the people affected by NAIS replied all too often with a resounding ‘Hell, no,’ it’s time for it to go away.

Chuck Jolley is a free lance writer, based in Kansas City, who covers a wide range of ag industry topics for Cattlenetwork.com and Agnetwork.com.

Comments? CRJolley@msn.com

Billings, Mont. — As promised, R-CALF USA has launched a 12-day blitz of news releases to explain in detail many of the reasons our members oppose the U.S.. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

With this effort, R-CALF USA hopes to bring to light many of the dangerous aspects associated with NAIS with regard to invasion-of-privacy issues, the likely acceleration of the ongoing exodus of U.S. cattle producers from the industry, as well as other concerns we believe USDA has not even begun to ponder. Click here to view the entire 13-pages of formal comments R-CALF USA submitted to the agency on Aug. 3, 2009, to, yet again, oppose the implementation of NAIS.

In the second installment of our NAIS Opposition Blitz, we explore how the costs of NAIS will worsen the ongoing and long-run lack of profitability for independent U.S. cattle producers:

* According to USDA’s own data, the average return to U.S. cattle producers for the past 12 years (1996-2007) was a loss of $493.87 per bred cow per year. When only operating costs, and not total costs of production, were calculated, the loss per bred cow per year was still $6.42 during this period. Therefore, any production cost increases caused by NAIS would accelerate the exodus of U.S. cattle producers, whom have already exited the industry at a rate of 19,000 cattle operations per year during the past 12 years.

This information is available from a USDA Economic Research Service reporter titled “Cow/Calf Production Costs and Returns Per Bred Cow, 1996-2007, Data Sets,” and can be accessed at http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/CostsandReturns/testpick.htm.

Another report, titled “Cattle, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, Mt An 2-1 (1-97) backs up this information. This report is available at: http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/nass/Catt//1990s/1997/Catt-01-31-1997.pdf.

Additional information is available in a report titled “Farms, Land in Farms, and Livestock Operations: 2008 Summary, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, Sp Sy 4(09), February 2009, at 14, located at:

http://usda.mannliv.cornell.edu/usda/current/FarmLandIn/FarmLandIn-02-12-2009.pdf.

# # #

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-CALF USA represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on trade and marketin! g issues. Members are located across 47 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners. R-CALF USA directors and committee chairs are extremely active unpaid volunteers. R-CALF USA 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.

Note:  Platt Land and Cattle is a large, family owned/operated cow-calf ranch with
owned and leased ranches in Arizona and New Mexico.
We oppose NAIS in total ~~~ by Jay Platt.


NAIS is simply an unworkable and highly intrusive bureaucratic boondoggle; it is a regulatory proposal for which a need has never been demonstrated and, more importantly, for which USDA has never provided specific citations of statutory and constitutional authority authorizing such action.  NAIS should therefore be terminated in total.

More specific comments are as follows:

New Mexico Ranch1.  No need for NAIS has ever been demonstrated.

USDA has failed to demonstrate a need for “48-hour trace back.”  It has similarly failed to identify what diseases require the imposition on producers of such a costly, onerous, and intrusive program.

Producers, by their failure to register premises and their overwhelming opposition at the listening sessions, have sent a clear message: there is no need for NAIS.  These producers have trillions of dollars at stake in livestock, land, equipment and water rights.  Their very lives are bound up in that investment.  Many have fine educations with degrees in veterinary science, law, and business.

We are left, however, with the preposterous proposition that government, academia, a few veterinarians, and tag/tech manufacturers with no corresponding stake in livestock, land, equipment and water rights know what is best for producers’ livestock herds.

The concept of “48-hour trace back” is from OIE’s Terrestrial Animal Health Code, Article 4.2.2, Performance Criteria, which suggests, as a measure of effect animal ID,  that “all animals can be traced to the establishment of birth within 48 hours of an enquiry.” http://www.oie.int/eng/normes/mcode/en_chapitre_1.4.2.htm

USDA’s use of the word “premises” also comes from the OIE code.  The glossary defines “establishment” as used in connection with 48-hour traceback as “the premises in which animals are kept.” http://www.oie.int/eng/normes/mcode/en_glossaire.htm#sous-chapitre-2

The purpose of the OIE Code is one of assuring “the sanitary safety of international trade in terrestrial animals and their products,  (emphasis added) http://www.oie.int/eng/normes/en_mcode.htm?e1d10 and in his May 6, 2009, editorial, OIE’s Director General Bernard Vallat proudly proclaims, “One World, One Health. http://www.oie.int/eng/edito/en_lastedito.htm

During the gathering of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners in Vancouver in September, 2007,  former USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Bruce Knight, was queried as to why USDA was making such a push for premises registration.  His response: “It is quite simple.  We want to be in compliance with OIE regulations by 2010.” http://www.r-calfusa.com/news_releases/2009/090507-nais.htm

In short, USDA has been less than transparent and honest with American cattle producers.  It has been pushing an animal ID system to benefit industrialized agriculture–those involved in international trade.  There can be absolutely no doubt on this point.

On June 11, 2009, Rosa DeLauro, Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture issued a press release on the committee’s fiscal year 2010 bill which included the following statement :

The bill eliminates funding for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). After receiving $142 million in funding since fiscal year 2004, APHIS has yet to put into operation an effective system that would provide needed animal health and livestock market benefits. USDA is currently conducting a public listening tour

around the country for several months to hear from stakeholders. Until USDA finishes its listening sessions and provides details as to how it will implement an effective ID system, continued investments into the current NAIS are unwarranted. (Emphasis added.)

At the NAIS listening sessions a welcoming video is shown featuring Secretary Vilsack.  He asserts that “we will all agree that we need to protect the livestock markets and the livelihood of producers” and then continues:

I don’t want us to get to the point where Congress says they will not

continue to fund the system.  If that were to happen, I would doubt the reliability of our market and that’s not where we want to be.

(Emphasis added.)

Apart from the fact that his nation is a net importer of beef, what markets are demanding NAIS?  If indeed there is such a demand,  cannot exporters work privately with producers on an export/ID program? USDA never answers such questions. The fact is that “markets” are not concerned about NAIS.  They are concerned about exports which contain Canadian product.

The Korean meat export protocols list as ineligible,

  1. Beef and beef products derived from cattle imported from Canada   for immediate slaughter .
  2. Beef and beef products derived from cattle imported from Canada  that were resident in the U.S. less than 100 days prior to  slaughter .

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Regulations_&_Policies/Republic_of_Korea_Requirements/index.asp

In a June 10, 2003, letter from Toshikazu Ijichi, Japan’s Animal Health Division Director, Dr. Peter Fernandez, Deputy Administrator, Veterinary Services for USDA-APHIS was advised that Japan had “deleted Canada from the list of countries which are eligible to export” beef to Japan “in light of confirmation of a single case of BSE in Canada.”

Dr. Fernandez was further advised that

In order to protect Japan from possible introduction of BSE, I would like to ask you again not to export beef and its product which is derived from the [sic] cattle born, raised or slaughtered in the countries with indigenous BSE cases to Japan through your country.  Therefore, I would like to ask you again to indicate the country of origin where the cattle from which the exported meat product to Japan was produced were born, raised and slaughtered . (Emphasis added.)

http://www.r-calfusa.com/Animal_Health/080618Exhibit1-LetterToNewYorkTimes-JapanAnimalHealthLetter.pdf

The notion that export markets are clamoring for the imposition of NAIS is simply not supported by the factual record.  Of ironic interest in light of the above letter is USDA’s delay in the implementation–and its frustration of the clear intent–of COOL.

One thing is very clear from the listening sessions:  producers, the owners of the animals USDA would ostensibly protect, overwhelmingly reject NAIS and the claimed need therefore.  There is a great irony of paternalism–government knows best–vis-à-vis the producer rejection of NAIS in the  “listening sessions” and their failure to register their “premises.”

USDA never mentions OIE, its Terrestrial Animal Health Code, and the Codex Alimentarius except by implication when it asserts that NAIS is needed to protect “markets,” a euphemism  for trade.  It has simply been disingenuous at best, as it panders to industrialized agriculture and ignores its statutory obligation to rural agriculture.

Such pandering has come at great cost to rural producers.  Examining USDA data for the period from 1984 through 2006, farm/ranch share of income distribution from trade declined by 28% while services’ share doubled and trade/transportation’s share increased nearly 52%!

Using the period 1982 1984 as the base, and adjusting for inflation, the price of slaughter steers/heifers has declined 57% since 1947 while the retail beef price index has increased 3%!  Today, the United States is a net importer of beef, some 17% of domestic supply is of foreign origin.  USDA has failed those it was established to serve.

Qui bono? NAIS burdens producers with costs and intrusive regulations to benefit industrial agriculture and global trade.  There are no benefits for producers in NAIS. Being in the business of accumulating and wielding power, Government is a beneficiary; the tag and technology companies will earn increased profits; meat packers will mine data and industrial agriculture engaged in international trade will likewise enjoy increased profits.

This is a simple issue of “follow the money.”  USDA’s 2005 Strategic Plan for NAIS states that

In 2002, the National Institute of Animal Agriculture

(NIAA) initiated meetings that led to the development of the U.S.

Animal Identification Plan (USAIP). That work provided the

foundation data standards for the National Animal Identification

System (NAIS).  (Emphasis added.) http://wlsb.state.wy.us/brands/Premises/brochure/NAIS_Draft_Strategic_Plan_42505.pdf

An examination of NIAA’s membership list discloses a lengthy list of tag/tech companies including AgInfoLink, Allflex, Brock’s Cattle-Identi Company, Cattle-Traq, Destron Fearing, EZ-ID/AVID ID systems, Farnam, Fort Supply technologies, Meta Farms, Inc., Micro Beef Technologies, and National Band and Tag, to name a few.   The meat packing industry is represented by Cargill and AMI. http://animalagriculture.org/aboutNIAA/members/memberdirectory.asp

The head of NIAA’s Animal ID committee is from Allflex. http://animalagriculture.org/aboutNIAA/committees/AIDIS/animalid.asp

NCBA also appears as a member; however, it entered into a cooperative agreement with APHIS, taking money to promote premises registration.

http://www.cattlementocattlemen.org/watcPremisesRegistration.aspx

http://www-mirror.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/speeches/content/2007/02/NatlCattlemen2-1-07.shtml

The producer bears all the costs and derives none of the benefits.  That, simply, is the reason for the overwhelming rejection of NAIS by producers. The listening sessions, if USDA will listen, make that point beyond cavil.

The existing combination of hot brands, brand inspection, health papers,  auction back tags, and border interdiction of disease has served this nation well for 100 years.  Brucellosis, TB and other livestock diseases have been effectively controlled while FMD has been unknown in the country since 1929.

On its website, USDA/APHIS acknowledges that existing “programs have achieved significant success over the years in reducing animal disease” but then asserts that “animal disease remains a reality in the U.S. as illustrated in the following examples.”  The two bovine diseases used to illustrate USDA’s assertion are BSE and TB. http://animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/why/animal_disease.shtml

This is overreaching at its best.  BSE has an extended incubation period.  BSE is spread not animal to animal but rather by the use of contaminated feed.  The United States has not had a domestic case of BSE:  the two reported U.S. cases were both atypical which is characterized by an absence of the spongiform changes in the brain caused by typical BSE. (Fact Sheet:  Atypical BSE, published by NCBA and the Beef Checkoff.)

USDA, through extended litigation with R-CALF USA, fought to open the U.S. border to Canadian cattle including those over 30-months of age.  Canada does have a BSE problem.  USDA further litigated with Creekstone Farms to prevent that business from voluntarily testing its cattle for BSE.

Canada’s Food Inspection Agency has acknowledged that feed cohorts from known BSE animals were exported to this country for slaughter.  For example, the CFIA announced that five cohorts of the November, 2008, BSE Holstein dairy cow were “exported for slaughter.”  According to CFIA, “investigation showed” the feed cohorts “consumed the same potentially contaminated feed.” http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/anima/heasan/disemala/bseesb/bccb2008/15investe.shtml

Given USDA’s i) laissez-faire attitude toward the importation of BSE from Canada, ii) its asserted position that its risk assessments and the removal of SRMs result in a de minimis risk to consumers,  and iii) its insistence that U.S. producers cannot voluntarily test for BSE, the contention that BSE is a disease that must now be managed with NAIS is simply disingenuous.

BSE cannot be managed or prevented by NAIS following its importation.  BSE should never be imported period.  Dr. Stanley Prusiner, Nobel Prize winner for his work in the discovery of prions, the cause of BSE states:

Regardless of whether the tonsils and distal ileum have been removed from cattle and in the case of cattle 30 months of age and older, the brain, eyes, spinal cord, and trigeminal ganglia as well these measures are unlikely to be sufficient to ensure the safety of the meat we consume. The only reliable way to minimize the risk of humans developing vCJD from BSE-infected cattle is to eliminate BSE-infected cattle from the food chain. (Emphasis added.)

http://www.r-calfusa.com/BSE/081117-Exhibit%207,%20Prusiner%20Declaration.pdf

NAIS will do nothing to eliminate BSE from the food chain.   USDA continues to allow the importation cattle from Canada which undeniably has a BSE problem.  Dr. Prusiner further states that “active testing in the EU has shown that BSE-infected cattle may display no signs even though they harbor substantial numbers of prions that can be identified using a rapid test for BSE.”  Id.

There is no rapid testing done in the United States and, as previously mentioned, USDA employed litigation to prevent Creekstone farms from voluntarily testing cattle.  To assert that NAIS is now needed to manage BSE is an absurdity at best:  either USDA with its risk assessments coupled with the removal of SRMs is correct and there is no BSE risk; or, Dr. Prusiner is correct and BSE should never be introduced into the food chain via imported cattle.  In either case, NAIS is of no value.

With regard to TB , Audit Report,  Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Control Over the Bovine Tuberculosis Program,  U.S. Department of Agriculture, Report No. 50601-0009-Ch, September, 2006.  Section 2, page 19, states:

Between FYs 2001 and 2005, 75 percent (205 of 272) of the TB cases detected through slaughter surveillance were determined by APHIS to have originated from Mexico. In response, APHIS has worked with Mexico to improve their TB eradication program; however, these efforts are undermined by the disease’s 3 to 12 month incubation period. Cattle may test negative for the disease prior to export, but develop TB and infect U.S. cattle after import. Although the majority of TB-infected cattle

found by slaughter surveillance in the United States are from Mexico, APHIS has not developed controls to restrict the movement of cattle, or require additional testing to compensate for the disease’s incubation period. Until additional controls are added, APHIS cannot reasonably expect to achieve its goal and

eradicate TB when it is being imported into the United States each year. (Emphasis added.)

Page 19 of the Report further noted that Mexico annually “exports 1 million cattle to the United States”; that Mexico has “a higher prevalence of the disease” such that Mexican cattle “are more likely to be infected with TB”; that Mexico has “no accredited-free states” and in 2004 “reported over 2,000 TB-infected herds compared to just 10 positive herds reported by the United States”; and that “99 percent of the cattle imported from Mexico spend time on U.S. premises prior to slaughter” with such time generally ranging from “5 to 14 months.” (Emphasis added.)

Page 20 of the Report states that “despite the higher prevalence of TB-infected cattle in Mexico, APHIS has not established additional import controls or requirements to test or restrict the movement of Mexican cattle after importation to the United States” and that the cattle so imported “simply become part of the U.S. herds.”  The lack of controls over Mexican cattle “has resulted in infected cattle being detected in 12 states over the last 5 years.”  A chart on page 20 of the Report shows the states and numbers of TB cases traced to Mexico for FYs 2001-2005.  That chart shows 2 in New Mexico and 5 in Arizona.

Page 22 of the Report set forth the conclusion that “APHIS was under utilizing high risk herds” as a tool to “target testing to questionable areas.” (Emphasis added.)

New Mexico RanchIn short, USDA’s contention that TB must be managed by NAIS while we continue to import the disease from Mexico is, like its similar BSE argument, most disingenuous.

Foot and mouth is another disease which Homeland Security and USDA have used as a scare tactic.  Given USDA’s efforts to regionalize Argentina and the announced relocation of the Plum Island facility to Kansas, America’s heartland, the assertion that producers must now embrace NAIS to combat a potential FMD outbreak is untenable.

There may well be an outbreak of FMD.  Unfortunately, it will likely be a direct result of government action:  a leak from the new Kansas facility, similar to the recent breach at the Surrey facility in England; or, it will come across our border which USDA refuses to secure and in fact works to make more porous.  NAIS will neither prevent nor mitigate the damage that will occur under either scenario.

The Canadian Veterinarian Journal, Vol. 50, January, 2009, contained a 60-page report on the containment of England’s 2001 FMD outbreak.  England has long had an animal ID system; however, that system and “traceback” was not the key to FMD containment in 2001.

The 2001 FMD outbreak was handled by throwing up perimeters and then, with locals, working in from the perimeter.  Similarly,  states have existing plans for handling emergencies which would include a FMD outbreak.  Such an outbreak would be handled as it was in England:  a perimeter would be established with no movement inside the perimeter as the necessary epidemiology work would then be done from the perimeter inward.

Animal ID was not utilized to contain the 2001 FMD outbreak nor would it be of any meaningful benefit were this nation to suffer an outbreak.  Further, it would not identify vehicles and individuals who have been in contact with contaminated herds; hence, the establishment of a perimeter with work then directed inward.

Even with TB, a perimeter is established and work is then done inward.  USDA’s handling of the current TB situation in Nebraska well illustrates this point.  NAIS would not alter the course of the investigation.

USDA claims that NAIS is vital in the case of TB as some investigations have taken up to 160 days.  Again, the current Nebraska situation is instructive.  A perimeter is established and herds are investigated within that perimeter.

What have been possible contacts with the infected herd and what has happened in the last 12 24 months with neighboring herds and cohorts?  USDA postures that the livestock industry has no records, no idea of where calves may have been sold or cull cows sent.

USDA adduces no evidence to support that assertion beyond its claim of an investigation of up to 160 days in length.  USDA never details what it did in that 160 period and how much investigative time was on issues for which NAIS would have been of no benefit.

Producers have records and so do states.  Arizona is a brand state.  It has a record of every animal that has left our ranch, where it went, and who the trucker was.  We have similar records.  USDA is simply misrepresenting the state of the livestock industry.

Border interdiction of disease and running a closed herd–which we do in our operation–are the two best defenses against the introduction of disease.  NAIS is of no benefit to us as producers.

2.  USDA has neither statutory nor constitutional authority for the imposition of NAIS; indeed, NAIS represents the implementation of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code and the Codex Alimentarius, the adaptation of which is a treaty action never ratified by the Senate as required by Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.

USDA has received repeated requests from multiple organizations for a specific citation of authority for NAIS.  It has never responded, beyond a generic reference to the Animal Health Protection Act of 2002 coupled with a broad assertion of authority to “carry out operations and measures to protect the health of American Agriculture.”

That assertion is apparently from 7 USC 8308 and has been taken completely out of context.  That section authorizes USDA to “carry out operations and measures to detect, control, or eradicate any pest or disease of livestock (including the drawing of blood and diagnostic testing of animals), including animals at a slaughterhouse, stockyard, or other

point of concentration.”  (Emphasis added.)

The statutory examples of “operations and measures” are of overt action by USDA  such as  drawing of blood and diagnostic testing, all directly intended to “detect, control, or eradicate” pests or diseases.  The statutory construction doctrines of ejusdem generis and noscitur a sociis require the general terms “operations and measures” to be construed in light of the specific terms “drawing of blood and diagnostic testing.”

The language most certainly does not confer broad authority to mandate overt action by producers in the form of an animal ID system designed to track livestock movement; that does not directly and actively “detect, control, or eradicate” pests or diseases; and which certainly is not a measure such as “drawing of blood and diagnostic testing.”

Any fair reading of the Act does not permit the assertion of authority by USDA for NAIS.  Further, USDA’s assertion of broad authority cannot be countenanced under any fair reading of the United States Constitution. The powers of Congress are not implied, plenary, and inherent, but rather express, limited and enumerated. USDA’s assertion that Congress has delegated and granted it broad powers which are implied, plenary and inherent flies in the face of the clear intent of Article 1, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution.

USDA is an administrative agency under the Executive branch of the federal government and enjoys no powers beyond those expressly granted it by Congress, acting in turn under the express, limited, and enumerated powers granted under Article 1, Section 8.

As noted above, USDA is essentially seeking to implement OIE’s Terrestrial Animal Health Code and the Codex Alimentarius by administrative fiat.  Both Codes are a complex web of international agreements and actions by numerous countries. http://www.oie.int/eng/OIE/en_histoire.htm?e1d1; http://www.oie.int/eng/OIE/organisation/en_structure.htm?e1d1; http://www.oie.int/eng/OIE/actes/en_accords.htm

The net effect of an implementation of NAIS by administrative fiat would be the enforcement upon American producers of international standards agreed to by various countries.  Those standards are, in essence, treaties much like the free trade agreements which required the consent of the Senate.  That body has never considered the agreements comprising the two codes.

The very fact of disagreement between producers and USDA over the necessity of NAIS underscores the need for transparent debate, deliberation, and consideration by the Senate.

Even if the two codes are not construed as treaties, they are most certainly a regulation of commerce with foreign nations, a power reserved to Congress, not to USDA as an administrative agency under the executive branch of government.  USDA simply has no power, statutorily or constitutionally, to mandate NAIS.

3.  The regulatory and enforcement provisions of NAIS are unknown and its underlying premise is suspect.

Inherent in NAIS is the assumption of an errorless system; i.e., that i) no cattle will ever lose ear tags, ii) that the tags will always function and not succumb to the effects of weather and sun, iii) that all dead and missing cattle can be accounted for, iv) that all movements of cattle can and will be accurately scanned, v) that the data so scanned will always be properly registered, vi) that the data so uploaded will always be properly received vii) that the data so received will be always be properly recorded and viii) that the data will always be retrievable.

USDA has no concept of the conditions under which cattle producers operate, how cattle are handled, what facilities will actually be required to read and scan tags, of weather–heat, cold, wet, dry, dust–under which NAIS would function.  It has no concept of a lack of internet access to upload information.  The errorless system envisioned by USDA is simply not a real world scenario.

There is no duplication or redundancy as is the case in our present system.  The concept of 48-hour trace back, while beguiling, is actually inferior to the present system due to the duplication and redundancy in the existing system.

England has experienced problems with its ID program with a cow herd that is substantially smaller than the U.S. herd.  According to a November, 2003, House of Commons Report, the entire population of cattle, sheep and pigs in England was a mere 25 million.  In contrast, there are nearly 100 million cattle in the United States.

The livestock industry in England is on a much smaller scale than in the U.S.; yet, according to the October 12, 2008, issue of the Telegraph,

In a situation described as udder chaos, officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) admitted in Parliamentary questions that 20,979 of the animals had been mislaid.

The livestock should have been logged on Defra’s Cattle Tracing System, devised to protect public and animal health after the BSE and foot and mouth epidemics.

However the cattle have disappeared from the system, while another 1039 are believed to have been loaded onto cattle trucks and never heard of again, according to the Daily Star.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/3182720/Defra-admits-losing-20000-cows-in-Britain.html

The same article noted that Britain’s Ministry of Defence had lost a computer hard drive containing the private details of 100,000 members of the Armed Forces and that the Home Office had lost a memory stick containing data on 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales.

Such experiences are not unique to England.  USDA itself has had similar incidents.

In 2007, USDA inadvertently published the social security numbers of 63,000 people on the internet. http://www.technewsworld.com/story/security/57029.html?wlc=1243391840

Also in 2007, USDA had computers stolen containing sensitive information about farmers. http://seclists.org/isn/2007/Mar/0060.html

In 2006, USDA’s office of Inspector General, in its annual audit, concluded that the “Agriculture Department continues to suffer from inadequate management and monitoring of IT security controls, both at the department-level and in its agencies.” http://gcn.com/articles/2006/10/20/usda-security-improvements-still-not-effective-ig.aspx

Indeed, USDA has been given the lowest possible marks for 5 straight years on federal computer report card grades by the House Government Reform Committee. http://www.internetnews.com/security/article.php/3615831

John Carter, former chairman of the Australian Beef Association and whose family holds the oldest registered brand in that country, reports that 20% of the cattle in the NLIS data base are missing; that a personal audit of his NLIS data base shows that less than 50% of the animals he has sold are so reflected in the data base; than a “trace back trial” of 300 head of cattle could track only 75% and that the remaining 25% could be tracked only through Australia’s traditional “paper trail.” Carter states that NLIS has “produced a shambles.”

The notion that NAIS is a technologically feasible means of tracing 100 million head of cattle is not supported by existing evidence.  USDA’s own record with computers, theft, hacking and other security breaches coupled with animal ID experiences in England and Australia well demonstrate that it is a system that should be rejected.

What will happen when cattle movements are not accurately scanned, registered, transmitted, or received?  There will be discrepancies and irregularities in data.  How heavy handed will USDA be in such instances?  Most producers have experience with federal agencies and in many cases, it is not favorable.

In our own experience, dealing with TB in New Mexico, we have found the agency and its rules to be heavy handed with demands which, by its own admission, have no rational basis.

USDA has given no indication to producers of how NAIS will be enforced and discrepancies/irregularities handled.  If England is any indication, producers can expect heavy-handed enforcement.

According to London’s Telegraph, Cheshire dairyman David Dobbins had 567 head of dairy cattle destroyed by DEFRA as a consequence of ID paperwork “irregularities” notwithstanding that DEFRA “failed to explain how many or what these were.”  Prior to the destruction of the animals. Mr. Dobbins records were seized by DEFRA, negating his ability to even respond to DEFRA’s noncompliance assertions. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1545862/Christopher-Bookers-notebook.html

One fears that NAIS will bring similar events upon the heads of this nation’s cattle producers

4.  USDA has spent well in excess of $140 million promoting premises registration and NAIS.  This expenditure is most irresponsible at a time when this nation is–in essence–bankrupt.  This nation simply cannot afford any more such frivolous expenditures.

In the face of the hundreds of billions and indeed trillions of dollars which the Federal Government has thrown about the last several months, USDA’s NAIS expenditures are minuscule.  Nevertheless, it is an expenditure of money which the federal government simply does not have.

The May 30, 2009, issue of USA Today reported numbers previously discussed in various sources by David Walker, former U.S. Comptroller General who resigned in disgust following Congressional inaction on his annual report to Congress.  The total unfunded liabilities of the Federal Government now total a record $63.8 trillion, a sum equal to $546,668 for every U.S. household!

Estimates are that only around 1% of U.S. households have a net worth sufficient to pay their proportionate share of the $63.8 trillion in debt.  In short, this nation is bankrupt.

Continued spending on NAIS, a program for which, as discussed above, no need has ever been demonstrated is simply irresponsible given this nation’s financial condition.

NAIS should immediately be terminated and not a single additional dollar spent thereon.

5.  USDA has no credibility with producers and there is no on the ground support for NAIS, without which it simply cannot succeed.

At all of the listening sessions–through Albuquerque on June 16–two salient facts emerged:  there is widespread mistrust of USDA among producers and there is virtually no producer support for NAIS.  A chasm, a gulf exists between USDA and producers.

NAIS was never intended to be voluntary.  Several comments in the  2005 Strategic Plan underscore this:

—  NAIS must be implemented(USDA Secretary Mike Johanns)

—  We have been working on an animal identification plan here at

USDA over a number of years now, and our goal

has remained consistent–to be able to track animals within a 48-

hour period. We are prepared to roll up our sleeves and get this

implemented .  NAIS is a top USDA priority.  (William “Bill”

Hawks Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs)

— [W]e move forward to implement NAIS.  (John R. Clifford, Deputy

Administrator Veterinary Services)

(Page 2, Strategic Plan) http://wlsb.state.wy.us/brands/Premises/brochure/NAIS_Draft_Strategic_Plan_42505.pdf

The Plan claimed that “stakeholders provide broad support for national animal identification” and in its timeline listed January, 2009, as the target date by which “Reporting of defined animal movements [will be] required; [and the] entire program [becomes] mandatory.”

USDA pulled out all stops.  In Colorado, 4-H children were prohibited from showing livestock at the state fair unless their parents had registered their “premises.”  Money was given to FFA in the hope of cajoling parents.

The Plan was changed to become “voluntary” and NAIS morphed from an animal health plan to a marketing tool; then it became a means of assuring consumers that their beef is wholesome–a food safety issue; finally, the trump card of bio-terrorism was played.

Four years later, and following some $140 million to register “premises”–much of it bribe money handed out to “partners” in an effort to enlist their support–only some 30% of “premises” have been registered.

In many states, however, when dairies, feeding, hog and poultry operations, are excluded, less than 10% of cattle producers have registered.  Missouri is such an example.

Having played all its cards of crisis, USDA’s plan had nevertheless run amuck.  There was no “stakeholder” support.  USDA, fond of the term “stakeholder” had forgotten that the only real “stakeholders” were those producers on the ground who actually owned the cattle that were to be the subject of NAIS.

USDA apparently assumed that producers were red-necked bumpkins who could be coached into compliance by smooth talking bureaucrats in Brooks Brothers suits singing the soothing song of the voluntary nature of NAIS.

USDA’s next target for bamboozlement was Congress.  At the March 11 NAIS hearing earlier this year before the House Agricultural Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, USDA stacked the deck.  The first “panel” consisted of but a single individual:  APHIS’ Dr. John Clifford who was given over one hour to advocate for NAIS.

There was but a single independent cattle producer invited to give testimony, R-CALF’s Dr. Max Thornsberry, who was afforded a mere five minutes of time.

All other panel members were representatives of government (Dr. Williams and Mr. St. Cry);  were representatives of groups who were had taken, directly or indirectly, bribe money from USDA to promote NAIS under the euphemism  of “co-operative agreements” (Mr. Nutt, Dr. Jordan, and Mr. Butler); or were former USDA/APHIS employees (Dr. Ron DeHaven.)

Chairman Scott, during a brief discussion on foot and mouth, seized on a reference to the highly contagious nature of bovine FMD and a mention of potential airborne contamination to try and connect human health with bovine FMD.  Specifically, Chairman Scott suggested that NAIS was necessary to protect humans from contracting bovine FMD.  USDA’s Dr. Clifford did nothing to correct Chairman Scott’s misapprehension.

There is a human form of FMD which is “a common viral illness of infants and children” but it is “not related” to the bovine disease.  (See the website for the Center for Disease Control and its discussion of the human form http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/revb/enterovirus/hfhf.htm)

Misconception manifested itself again when Representative Conaway asked Dr. Clifford about the triggering event for a 48-hour traceback under NAIS.  Representative Conaway’s question was in the context of a boy in Philadelphia who becomes ill after he has eaten a hamburger.

Traceback of live animals has nothing to do with traceback of E. coli, which was underlying Representative Conaway’s question.  There is presently no traceback system from the consumption of meat to the processing facility or meat packing plant which would be the source of contamination.  NAIS does nothing to change this:  traceability would stop at the processing plant door.

As he had done with Chairman Scott and the misconception on FMD and a perceived risk to human health, Dr. Clifford did nothing to correct Representative Conaway’s erroneous conception that NAIS had something to do with tracing of E. coli in contaminated meat.  In short, Dr. Clifford allowed the erroneous conception that NAIS was a human health and food safety issue to go unchallenged.

Having engaged in such misleading conduct, USDA initiated listening sessions, handing out materials including a May 7 “Dear Participant” letter under the signature of John Clifford.  There are interesting phrases in that letter:

  • We need to work collaboratively to resolve concerns and move forward with animal tracebility
  • NAIS is a cooperative effort
  • Much more work is needed to fully implement NAIS
  • Together we can develop a system that we an all support.

Inherent in those phrases is a determination on the part of USDA to proceed with NAIS, notwithstanding total producer opposition thereto.  Producers will be spun as rejecting the reasonable overtures of a wise USDA.  The platitude of wanting to listen and hear producer input is a velvet glove masking an iron fist.

Several states have statutes prohibiting a mandatory NAIS.  How will that be handled?  In a system of federalism, does USDA really have ultimate authority over livestock?  Does Article 1, Section 8, of the federal Constitution in fact negative much of the Animal Health Protection Act relied on by USDA?  At the Albuquerque listening session, one Navajo speaker suggested that the tribes may not accept a mandatory NAIS.  How will the issue of tribal sovereignty be resolved?  Does USDA really wish to force a constitutional confrontation on these points?

USDA may mandate NAIS but in the process will further alienate producers.  The existing gulf will become an unbridgeable chasm.  Enforcement will make criminals of law abiding citizens as producers are jailed and their property subjected to confiscatory fines to coerce compliance.  Is this what USDA truly desires?

In our operation, we will simply not comply with NAIS, even if it is made mandatory.  We are weary of an intrusive government and the fights associated therewith.  Rather than continuing to submit to intrusive, heavy-handed regulation, we would choose to exit the business.  There is no joy in serfdom on one’s own land and with one’s own animals.

We respectfully urge Secretary Vilsack to close down shop with NAIS and to began a new dawn of rebuilding bridges with producers, working with us rather than with industrialized agriculture, to fulfill USDA’s express statutory mandate and be about the business of improving “the quality of life for people living in the rural and nonmetropolitan regions of the nation.”  7 USC 2204 (a).

That mandate is a true cooperative effort, one that can be achieved without the expenditure of vast sums of money, without onerous regulations but rather by simply working to rehabilitate commodity markets, restoring them as true markets where prices reflect supply and demand and not the oligopsonistic bargaining power and market manipulation by industrialized agriculture coupled with speculation by hedge funds and individuals who have never and will never own a cow.

As producers, our livelihood is more dependent on fixing broken domestic markets than it is on expanding foreign markets and implementing an ID system that provides a false sense of security for herd health.

Stop NAIS now and actually help producers do what they do best:  produce.  Currently, USDA’s policies would castrate and bid the gelding be fruitful.

Washington, D.C. — R-CALF USA is pleased that the U.S. Senate, through a unanimous consent vote, supported an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.., that slashes funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) National Animal Identification System (NAIS) by one-half in the 2010 Agriculture Appropriations bill.

“…perhaps most important, USDA has pursued NAIS without working in cooperation with the very industry sector that would be directly impacted by the agency’s radical new proposal. Instead, USDA has proceeded to implement NAIS despite overwhelming opposition from the men and women who comprise our U.S. livestock industry, and particularly from those involved in the largest segment of our livestock industry — the U.S. cattle industry,” wrote R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry in a letter sent to Tester before the vote.

“As evidenced by USDA’s numerous listening sessions held throughout the U.S., this overwhelming opposition arises from those individuals who have the greatest stake in ensuring that our livestock herds remain protected from the introduction and spread of disease — the individuals whose very livelihoods and businesses are dependent on preventing, controlling and eradicating diseases,” the letter continued. “This, above all else, should demonstrate to Congress that USDA’s NAIS program is wholly inappropriate and unsuitable for the United States livestock industry.”

Thornsberry pointed out that USDA already has spent about $140 million of taxpayer money on NAIS, claiming the program would allow animal disease traceback within 48 hours, but such an arbitrary timeframe would not appear to prevent the spread of diseases with long incubation periods, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or bovine tuberculosis. Nor would NAIS appear to prevent the spread of diseases that incubate very quickly, such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), which would necessitate more immediate containment actions to prevent disease spread beyond an infected animal.

Additionally, R-CALF USA signed on with a letter to the entire Senate from a coalition of 76 other organizations that oppose NAIS.

“Contrary to its stated purposes, NAIS will not address animal disease or food safety problems. Instead, NAIS imposes high costs and paperwork burdens on family farmers…In this letter, we will touch on just a few of the reasons that NAIS is fundamentally flawed:

1) No analysis or quantification of the alleged benefits. USDA has made unsupported assertions that our country needs 48-hour traceback 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 traceback, 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 traceback. 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, replacement costs for lost tags, 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. In addition to the costs, NAIS would impose significant reporting and paperwork burdens on small farms. In addition, sustainable livestock operations, which 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.

“NAIS epitomizes what government should not do: it should not impose costly and highly intrusive regulatory burdens on private industry and private citizens without first considering alternatives, without first establishing a critical public need, and without first determining the effect that a significant government mandate would have on the culture and economy of the U.S. livestock industry,” said Thornsberry. “We view the Tester/Enzi amendment as an essential step towards requiring USDA to begin cooperating with U.S. livestock producers to prevent the introduction and spread of animal diseases and pests in livestock without violating the rights and privileges of the individual owners a! nd caretakers of those livestock.”

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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-CALF USA represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on trade and marketin! g issues. Members are located across 47 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners. R-CALF USA directors and committee chairs are extremely active unpaid volunteers. R-CALF USA 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.

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