An eye witness account from the Washington USDA Listening Session from Elaine Smith. This is the truth, not a “fair and balanced” half good–half bad report like the news media reports. Thank you Elaine for this report.
I did attend the Pasco listening session, but I was late as the session began at nine. I got there right before the comments ended, and I did make a brief comment. I told them “1,000 farm and ranch families go out of business each month due to economic pressures and excessive government regulation. My sons will not be able to continue in the ranching business with NAIS. I ask you USDA people—What part of ‘NO ANIMAL ID’ do you not understand?!”
Pasco Washington is basically a farming community(fruit trees, grapes, potatoes, asparagus, corn and other vegetables) with a few ranches in surrounding areas. It is important to note that there are kill plants there to process the cattle streaming across the border from Canada, so it was convenient for the packers to show up! But I was told only 3 spoke for NAIS.
I estimate there were 50 to 75 other attendees, some ranchers driving 8 hours to get there, I drove 4 hours. I personally commented to a USDA person that Pasco was NOT a good place to hold a listening session if they wanted ranchers to attend, and in the breakout session, I further scolded them for this. I explained to them that most of the attendees were NOT being paid to be there—we paid our own travel expenses, and because the session began in the morning, those of us who came a great distance had a motel bill on top of that,
AND we had to take 2 days away from our operations during the busy spring season.
I used the comments from the Pennsylvania session and told them the USDA has shown themselves to be untrustworthy—promising a voluntary program and no one wants to volunteer. I also told them that they are not trustworthy as they insist on writing the COOL regulations so they are ineffective in preventing disease from entering our country.
I also explained to them that the ranchers I know DO NOT have computers, and for some of them a library is 150 miles away (to use a computer) and they DO NOT have time to learn and use a computer. The whole NAIS plan is ludicrous and WILL NOT WORK. I think I scolded them pretty well and a young rancher had some prepared comments that were very good. We both told them “We will not comply”. Others there were more into explaining the details that wouldn’t work for their situation, and that the cost was exorbitant.
There were two cops there with scowls, and all of the USDA employees seemed rather meek and embarrassed, which makes me think that the Pennsylvania session had made them realize just what they are personally doing. However, I also know that their training may have taught them that they need to have an ‘understanding attitude’. Who knows?
I know what a toll it takes on families to be forever fighting govt. agencies determined to put us out of business.