May 24, 2024

Jolley: NAIS, Dead Or Alive?

Let’s get something straight about NAIS from the beginning.  I don’t own any cattle.  No chickens, hogs, alpacas, purebred dogs, turkeys or guinea fowl.  So, as they say, I don’t have a dog in this fight.  Whether it becomes the law (or federal regulation) of the land, or not, won’t have an immediate impact on my wallet.

I seem to share that state of mind with Tom Vilsack.

A few differences come to mind, though.  I attended the listening sessions in Jefferson City and Omaha.  Tom didn’t.

I wrote about both events and read every bit of feedback I got so that I would be able to develop a true sense of what the average farmer thought about the issue.  Tom didn’t.

I asked a few of the people who were profoundly anti-NAIS to respond to some questions about their stance.  They responded with well-reasoned answers.  Here are a few of my most recent columns on NAIS.

Jolley: Five Minutes With The NAIS Issue – Cattle Network

Jun 26, 2009 … “Today, I am asking farmers and stakeholders to engage with USDA in a more productive dialogue about NAIS. Now is the time to have frank and …

Jolley: Five Minutes With Dr. John Wiemers, USDA, APHIS, NAIS

Feb 1, 2008 … From deep within the inner mechanisms of the National Animal Identification System, commonly known as NAIS, comes a man who has been …

Jolley: Five Minutes With Rhonda Perry, Missouri Rural Crisis …

Jun 19, 2009 … Then Rhonda Perry of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center stood up and calmly brought the crowd to its collective boot-shod feet by politely … – CachedSimilar

Jolley: Delivering The Coup de Grâce To No NAIS sayers? – Cattle …

May 20, 2009 … If only a third of the ranchers take part in the program, it’s D.O.A. Those aren’t enough numbers to make NAIS workable whether you’re for …

To balance the scales, I asked Tom to answers some of the same questions.  Tom didn’t.

The questions I submitted to him were answered by Dr. John Clifford, a good and learned man who has the respect of all those who work with him.  The e-cards and e-letters I received from that interview were 100% against NAIS in any way, shape or form. Passing the buck to Dr. Clifford, though, and reading the answers he supplied gives me a sense of where this issue stands with Tom Vilsack.

His May 15 comments announcing the listening sessions indicated that NAIS was a done deal, he just wanted to see if there might be – somewhere, somehow – some common ground that might make it palatable to more people.  I hope he didn’t think he would win over a majority; just a few more fence-sitters.

But the coldest and hardest of facts is NAIS is a breakwater issue; one that, frankly, most opponents would rather pass water on.  The written comments on line are overwhelmingly against the program.  The spoken comments at the listening sessions were even more vehement in their opposition.

If NAIS were to come to a vote, it would be overwhelmed in a landslide worse than Goldwater suffered in 1964.  The nearest political defeat in America history that might compare would be James Monroe‘s 231 electoral votes to John Quincy Adams‘s 1 electoral vote in 1820. (85.6% margin).

Are you getting a sense of why the Secretary handed off the old pigskin?  Did anyone see the Washington Redskins play the Giants in 1985 when Joe Theismann’s career came to a quick and sudden end?  Late in the 2nd Quarter the Giants defense, not buying a flea-flicker. swarmed on top of him causing his leg to buckle and snap as a horrified national audience watched.  Vilsack isn’t ready to have his career end on a note like that.

What we have here is an agricultural community that is as vehemently against NAIS as the pro-gun crowd is against any form of gun control.  That quote came from a lawyer friend who has been a close observer of both issues.  It’s a “pry it from my cold, dead hands” issue.

Standing on the other side of the chasm is the USDA, still determined to implement NAIS.  They see it as necessary to maintaining international trade and the only way to ‘locate in 48.’

With many small farmers telegraphing a willingness to stand guard against any incursion by the USDA with their unregulated fire arms, we’re facing a mini-civil war.  The listening session only served to move the two sides farther apart.   Those listening sessions were a real-time flea flicker play that the ag public didn’t buy.

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

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