Understanding NAIS and it’s many tentacles
Follows is a public record comment from USDA’s request for comments that are being taken until August 8th. If you haven’t submitted your comments yet, I urge you to do so but not until you read this one. This succinctly details all the problems with NAIS, all of the industry pandering, the international entanglements, etc. Once you read this you will be able to put it all together in your mind and, with all hope, you will find you have a renewed fire in your belly to fight along side us. We must get consumers to stand with us as well. If you think the prices of food are high now, just wait until they implement NAIS.
Get a cuppa and read on.
Happy 4th of July. I pray it is not our last one of independence.
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.
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:
*1. _No need for NAIS has ever been demonstrated._*
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.”
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.”
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.
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. (Emphasis added.)
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,
1. Beef and beef products derived from cattle imported from Canada for immediate slaughter ….
2. 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-à-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.)
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.
The head of NIAA’s Animal ID committee is from Allflex.
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
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.
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
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
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.”
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.)
In short, USDA’s contention that TB must be managed by NAIS while we
continue to import the disease from Mexico is, like its similar BSE
argument, most disingenuous.
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
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,
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
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.
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
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
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
In 2007, USDA inadvertently published the social security numbers of
63,000 people on the internet.
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.”
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.
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
*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)
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
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
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:
n We need to work *collaboratively* to resolve concerns *and move
forward with animal tracebility*
n NAIS is a *cooperative effort*
n Much more work is needed to *fully implement NAIS*
n *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.