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:
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.
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,
- Beef and beef products derived from cattle imported from Canada for immediate slaughter .
- Beef and beef products derived from cattle imported from Canada that were resident in the U.S. less than 100 days prior to slaughter .
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.)
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-Ã -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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.