by Darol Dickinson
In Ancient Rome, the historic source of modern law, CULPAE POENAE PAR ESTO meant “Let the punishment fit the crime.” But at one agency of our federal government, that time honored precept seems to have been forgotten. National Animal Identification System (NAIS), being promoted by USDA as a possible future disease tracing program, threatens both consumers and livestock producers with its draconian enforcement measures. The plan promises to saddle producers with exorbitant costs–certain to be passed on to consumers–even though the USA already has the least livestock disease of any nation on earth!
The first step in implementing NAIS is premises enrollment, next individual animal identification, and then coast-to-coast 48 hour animal tracing. Although these three components are the “only” steps mentioned by USDA, there is growing suspicion among livestock owners and some government officials that mandatory enrollment and compliance will be the next shoe to drop. There are strong hints that the USDA’s velvet glove conceals an iron fist!
USDA Ag Secretary, Tom Vilsack has promised that NAIS is totally voluntary on the federal level, “if . . . enough livestock owners enroll so it does not have to go mandatory.”
Compliance is meticulously touched, “If USDA decides to make NAIS mandatory, USDA/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, (APHIS) will follow the normal rulemaking process,” according to Vilsack. With rules, laws, inspections, taxes, regulations, licensing and surveillance, comes—Enforcement.
Enforcement of NAIS is not a happy subject, especially when the first step is still not sitting well with over three million animal producers. However, it is a dead serious issue for cowboys who want to know what new enforcements are involved, and the price tag, before surrendering to mandatory enrollment.
The current “rule making process” for USDA (which can be found on line at Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute, U.S. Code., Title 7, Chapter 109, 8313. Penalties.) Spells out what the “feds” can do to a farmer, rancher or 4-H kid. For a first infraction, there’s a $1,000 maximum. But subsequent penalties can be as high as $500,000 “for all violations in a single proceeding.”
Having fair penalties appropriate to the violation is a fundamental cornerstone of the US judicial system. However, with the USDA enforcement can be totally capricious. One could be fined $50,000 for crossing a state line with one incorrect number on a USDA issued livestock health certificate for a perfectly healthy child’s pony! According to Dr. Max Thornsberry, president of R-CALF USA, “The USDA is a runaway agency out of control, with total disregard for U.S. citizens.”
Producers are outraged at the massive amount of grants (cooperative agreements) doled out by USDA to make NAIS fully mandatory. Nearly $150 million has already been spent to promote enrollment–but it would only take 300 violations with penalties of $500,000 each to quickly recover that amount.
Forced animal numbering has been considered in a few other countries. However, only Australia has implemented bovine tracking as proposed by the USDA. Australia is also a prototype for US enforcement policies.
Stephen Blair, a Director of the Angus Society of Australia was recently fined $17,300. He was prosecuted for moving cattle from one of his ranches wearing ear tags from his other ranch. No diseased or stolen livestock were involved. It was strictly a matter of a government rule violation.
Certain states, induced by federal cash incentives, are already making “voluntary” NAIS rules mandatory. In Wisconsin Emanuel Miller, Jr., is being prosecuted for not enrolling his private property. Patrick Monchilovich in Cumberland, Wisconsin, also refusing to register, faces up to a $5000 fine plus all court costs and attorney’s fees. Best estimates indicate the cost for each will be over $90,000 if their defense efforts fail. Several thousand livestock producers in Wisconsin are refusing to enroll but have not been charged to date. The blood is starting to flow.
Proposed “food safety” bills would demand extraordinary enforcements. One such bill, HR 875 has $1,000,000 per violation per day (non-exclusive) penalty with 5 – 10 years jail time. HR 875 is a disguised back door effort to legislate NAIS mandatory.
USDA muscle is already in place–awaiting the opportunity to enforce a mandatory NAIS. Under existing rules, it is the obligation of licensed USDA veterinarians to report all non compliance by their clients or be subject to immediate disciplinary review. It is obvious that the agency is keen on enforcement.
The USDA/APHIS policing division is the Investigative and Enforcement Services (IES) with headquarters in Riverdale, MD. IES boasts of increasing thousands of “clients” with a 51 percent increase in case load and “more than a threefold increase in the dollar value of civil penalties” in one recent year. To enforce the ever increasing number of regulations, the IES even encourages citizens to become their informants. Neighbors, farm employees and friends are urged on the IES web site to “report potential violations.”
US livestock producers could soon become the most criminalized food producers in the world with major convictions for minor violations.
NAIS, when mandatory, as proposed by USDA, will require 100 percent computer documentation of stock movement at the sole expense of livestock owners. In a three year period the total NAIS computer entry numbers in the USA will more than eclipse the number of all people living on planet earth. The whopping magnitude of this federal numbering burden will require a giant increase in USDA employees, facilities and, of course, IES will explode with new “clients.” All costs–of both compliance and enforcement–will, of course, be charged to the tax paying consumer.
Every livestock producer should study the surly details of NAIS. So far, over 90 percent of US livestock producers are refusing to enroll their property in NAIS.
Livestock owners and all US citizens should oppose NAIS now, rather than after it has become scurrilously mandatory.
Animal owners and consumer advocates who have been leading the opposition to the proposed federal NAIS program believe that time is running out. To protect family farms and the availability of US grown foods, they are asking everyone to beseech their US Congressmen and Senators. State your sincere opposition of NAIS and other extreme so called “food safety” bills that will most certainly cause unnecessary and extravagant enforcements.
For more information www.naisSTINKS.com.
Australian ear tag case:
Cornell Agriculture Law:
APHIS’ Investigative and Enforcement Services