NAIS — It Ain’t Over Until The Fat Lady Sings
Written by: Chuck Jolley — Cattle Network
She belts one out on Monday. Except ‘she’ will be a couple of he’s — Brooks and Dunn singing ‘That ain’t no way to go.’
The heavily promoted comment period for the U.S.D.A.’s National Animal Identification System (N.A.I.S.) listening tour will end on Monday. According to the U.S.D.A., comments received on or before this date will be considered. Hopefully written comments received after the final Omaha meeting will be taken more seriously than spoken comments were during the ‘live,’ face-to-face meetings.
“While the roundtables and public listening sessions are complete, I encourage those of you who still would like to share your concerns and suggestions about N.A.I.S. to submit your written comments by August 3,” said Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, “We look forward to considering all the feedback before deciding on the future direction of U.S.D.A.’s traceability efforts.”
U.S.D.A. has posted a feedback page on the N.A.I.S. Web site. Whether you’re your for it or against it, go to www.usda.gov/nais/feedback now to provide your suggestions and comments.
If Vilsack is counting noses, N.A.I.S. will be deep-sixed on August 4. He announced the listening tour on May 15 as a way to find common ground for the development of the always controversial program. To be painfully blunt, common ground never existed. Only a pitifully small handful of people stood up for a national program during the 14 city tour. The vast majority of the often overly enthusiastic crowd spoke against N.A.I.S. using very specific and occasionally salty language. Trying to talk those people into accepting an animal identification program will be tougher than talking a card-carrying N.R.A. member out of his gun.
In fact, more than a few N.R.A. card-carrying farmers have promised to show anyone representing NAIS who dares step foot on his or her property a personal collection of fire arms. Barrel end first.
As a voluntary program, N.A.I.S. might have worked but only with the strongest possible assurances from the U.S.D.A. that ‘voluntary’ isn’t code for ‘mandatory’ within a few short years. Even that approach would be a hard sell as most of the speakers were outspoken about their innate distrust of anything that smacked of “Hello, I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”
These are people who are used to doing it themselves. If any help is needed, it’s neighbor-to-neighbor, not federales to farmers. The mistake the USDA made was trying to organize this program from the top down. Going after the cooperation of state ag agencies and trade associations, they assumed, would win the day and the big boys did fall in line, lured by the promise of an ever expanding foreign trade opportunity. NAIS, though, is a bottom up program. It can only succeed with the consent and cooperation of the hundreds of thousands of small farmers from Portland, ME to Portland OR.
They said no.
If there is any confusion about the meaning of that word, maybe the U.S.D.A. can understand it a little better by clicking here.
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.