USDA has held five listening sessions so far, and all of them have been dominated by individuals and organizations opposed to NAIS! Pro-NAIS speakers have been few and far between, and almost entirely from a small handful of industrial agriculture organizations.
Is USDA really listening? It’s too early to tell yet, but we know that the anti-NAIS turnout and publicity has made an impact. USDA has backed away from its agenda of promoting NAIS at these sessions, and abandoned the attempt to reach "consensus" at the afternoon breakout sessions. Whether this means anything will change is unknown, but at least USDA seems to have realized there is more resistance than it originally expected.
There are eight more sessions scheduled in the next month, in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, and South Dakota. These meetings are OUR chance to tell USDA what millions of farmers, hobby animal owners, and consumers think about NAIS! After 20 years of Big Ag making its plans, we must show up and make it clear that USDA’s goal of 100% participation isn’t acceptable. Whether they try to mandate NAIS by law or coerce us into it, we will say no!
Come to the meeting nearest you, and bring all your friends and neighbors! If you can’t come in person, USDA has also stated that it will continue taking written comments both online and through the mail. Details on where, when, and how are all below.
For more information, go to LibertyArk.net
Eight meetings still to go!
Wednesday, May 27 – Storrs, CT
University of Connecticut, Storrs Campus
Monday, June 1 – Loveland, CO
Tuesday, June 9 – Jefferson City, Missouri
Thursday, June 11 – Rapid City, South Dakota
Tuesday. June 16 – Albuquerque, New Mexico
Thursday, June 18 – Riverside, California
Thursday, June 25 – Raleigh, North Carolina
Saturday, June 27 – Jasper, Florida
TIME: Registration starts at 8 a.m. The meeting is from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
REGISTRATION is required:
1. Pre-register Online: Send an email to NAISSessions@aphis.usda.gov In the subject line of the e-mail, indicate your name (or organization name) and the location of the meeting you plan to attend. If you wish to present public comments, please include your name (or organization name) and address in the body of the message.
2. Pre-register by Phone: call 301-734-0799
3. Or, you can register the day of the meeting, starting at 8 a.m., at the meeting location.
1. Bring written comments.
2. If you want to speak, plan a short (3 minute) statement.
3. The afternoon will consist of “facilitated sessions.” This is another chance for you to speak your mind on the record! Be prepared to politely disagree with the facilitator. If they claim that a “consensus” has been reached with an answer that you don’t agree with, say so!
Remember, whether you choose to speak or not, being there does make a difference! The bigger the crowd, the louder the message to Congress and the media, as well as USDA. So come to the meeting, bring written comment to put into the record, and help pack the room with NAIS opponents!
Submit written comments!
USDA is accepting written comments through the end of June (and possibly longer). You can find sample comments here. Be sure to personalize them to have the greatest impact!
The Federal Register site can be confusing and difficult. Here’s what to do:
1. Click on the yellow balloon under the “add comments” column.
2. Fill out the required fields and type in your comments. If your comments are more than a paragraph or so, we recommend that you first write them in a word document, and then copy & paste them into the comments field.
3. Click on “next step.”
4. At the end of the process, you should receive a confirmation number.
or you can MAIL to:
The participants at all the meetings have been overwhelmingly anti-NAIS. Multiple organizations have worked to spread the word, encourage people to attend, and contact the media, including: Liberty Ark, the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Western Organization of Resource Councils, Weston A Price Foundation, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, R-CALF, American Grassfed Association, CARE, PICFA, PASA, NOFA-Mass, Massachusetts Small Holders Alliance, Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network, Kentucky Community Farm Alliance, and more.
The individuals opposing NAIS at each meeting included not only farmers and ranchers, but auction barn owners, technology experts, consumers, homesteaders, and horse owners. The people opposing NAIS come from all walks of life and every part of the political spectrum. As a fifth-generation rancher stated at the Austin meeting: "I find it kinda ironic that I’m on the same side of this issue as a bunch of these old hippies. But I am." In contrast, those supporting NAIS come from a very small handful of Big Ag and Technology interests. The USDA listening sessions are bringing this truth to light, and we must keep fighting!
Approximately 100 people attended the Pennsylvania meeting. At this first meeting, USDA spent significant time "selling" the program in the morning, and strictly limited people’s opportunity to speak. Of the 36 people who did speak, 27 spoke strongly against NAIS, 5 were somewhat indecisive, and only 4 spoke in favor of the program. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund provided the following report from a farmer who attended: "The people who spoke in favor of NAIS were mostly from organizations like the Farm Bureau which has consistently supported NAIS. … In my session the participants continued to speak out against the implementation of NAIS in any form, even as the facilitator kept trying to elicit comments about how the program could be improved."
Between 50 and 75 people attended the Washington state listening session, and the speakers were again overwhelmingly opposed to NAIS. "Only three spoke in favor of the program, a dairyman, a rep for an ear tag manufacturer, and the Washington State veterinarian, and even he sounded lukewarm towards the NAIS," reported Kathy and Bert Smith, Liberty Ark members.
On the breakouts: "The general consensus was that even a voluntary NAIS is unacceptable. USDA officials were unwilling to answer any questions. Whenever a question was posed, the facilitator replied that they were just there to listen and gather input, not to answer questions. The facilitator kept reminding participants that the USDA was seeking solutions to make the NAIS workable. This group was hard pressed to come up with solutions. The general consensus was an overwhelming majority against NAIS and to do away with it completely. Most were not even willing to compromise with a voluntary program."
Approximately 150 people attended, including many FARFA members and people representing the Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association, Liberty Ark, R-CALF, Livestock Marketing Association, and the Libertarian Party. There were small farmers, auction barn owners, horse owners, consumers, old ranchers, just-beginning farmers all speaking passionately against NAIS. Many of the speakers have been posted on YouTube here.
USDA attempted to start the day with a video of Vilsack, but had technical problems getting the recording to play! After that ironic beginning, 56 people spoke against any NAIS or advocated for a voluntary, market-driven program only. Only eight people spoke in favor of NAIS, almost entirely from the Texas Dairymen Association and Pork Producers. The afternoon sessions were also strongly anti-NAIS, with one session culminating in a blunt discussion of "how do we stop NAIS?" It was not a question on USDA’s list, but it was definitely the one that most of the people there cared about!
FARFA Chapter leaders and Liberty Ark State coordinators Susie Stretton, Rhonda Selser, and Margaret Stretton drove more than 450 miles from Louisiana to speak against NAIS at the Birmingham, Alabama meeting. They were joined by individuals not only from livestock organizations, but also from religious and property rights groups. Out of the crowd, 33 people asked to speak and 30 of them spoke against NAIS.
At the breakout sessions, all of the rooms were overwhelmingly anti-NAIS, just like the morning sessions. In one session, a woman claiming to represent the Tribes spoke at length about her qualifications and the cost-benefit analysis, only to be countered by the practical comments of the farmers in the room, who carried the NAIS documents and documented information with them. After participants spoke strongly against NAIS based on the cost, the lack of animal health benefits, and religious objections, the USDA facilitator stated that everyone was of “diverse opinions” and a consensus was impossible. A local farmer with the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund corrected him, pointing out that all but 2 people in the room were against NAIS. There was consensus at this meeting, although not the consensus that USDA was hoping for!
In Kentucky, about 150 people attended the session. Thirty-seven people spoke, and more than 90% opposed a mandatory NAIS. Those who spoke against it were mostly individuals, speaking for themselves. Pro-NAIS speakers all represented organizations or their employers. Wendell Berry gave a rousing speech declaring that this was the first meeting he’d been at with USDA, after decades of activism, where USDA brought armed police to protect itself. Ralph Packard, a natural livestock farmer, agreed with Wendell Berry, that the government will need its guns if they make the program mandatory and require people to register their farms and animals. Speakers came from Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio.
Break-out groups started early, but no consensus was possible. Some USDA personnel continued to insist that NAIS is voluntary, ignoring the coercion that USDA has funded, and state mandatory programs, also funded by USDA. One USDA staffer painstakingly stated that there are many tagging options and that microchips aren’t required "at this time." When confronted that his comment meant this could change, he would not respond. It was obvious that pro-NAIS personnel were uncomfortable, but also did not come prepared to make concessions.
More promising were the connections made among anti-NAIS activists. The Community Farm Alliance held a press conference at noon. Adam Barr, Ralph Packard, Weldell Berry, and Karin Bergener (of Liberty Ark) spoke about why NAIS will wipe out small, independent farmers and the meetings still failed to truly provide farmers a forum because of the late notices, and timing during busy season.
Many thanks to everyone who took the time away from their jobs, farms, and normal lives to come to these meetings! We need to continue to show USDA how deeply opposed people are to NAIS, so please encourage your friends and relatives to come to the remaining 8 meetings!
For more information about NAIS, visit and support LibertyArk.net