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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 6, 2006
National Animal Identification Marches On
Despite widespread reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has "abandoned" its plans to require individual identification and tracking of every livestock animal in the country, the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) marches on. USDA's Thanksgiving announcement that it would not adopt mandatory regulations at the federal level was a welcome development, but changes little of what is happening on the ground.
The same day that USDA released its new User Guide, it also announced the availability of over $14 million in funds for states and tribes to implement NAIS. The Work Plan for applicants reiterates the USDA's goal of "full participation by 2009" - in other words, the registration of every single person who owns even one head of livestock and the identification of hundreds of millions of animals. In many cases, the USDA will withhold part of the funds until the state shows that it has reached specified results.
Karin Bergener, an attorney in Freedom, Ohio, reports that the Liberty Ark Coalition receives many reports from farmers whose farms have been registered against their will. "The states are claiming farmers are voluntarily registering, when the states are really taking data from other agricultural programs and dumping it into the NAIS databases, without permission from the farmers." USDA's latest call for applications specifically states that it "WILL provide funding for" data mining of this kind.
States that have reached certain goals for premises registration may use some of the federal money to implement animal identification and tracking. This has already been occurring in Michigan. The Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) is requiring mandatory RFID tagging of cattle by March 1, 2007, and encouraging people to get started early. The program is headed up by Kevin Kirk, an MDA staff person who also is Treasurer of the National Institute of Animal Agriculture, the trade organization that asked the USDA to implement NAIS. In a presentation to 350 farmers in North Branch, Michigan, Kirk admitted that this tagging, ostensibly for the state's tuberculosis control program, is the beginning of NAIS in Michigan.
A representative for the Michigan NAIS program advised officials at a government-industry conference that they should follow Michigan's example in implementing mandatory identification, as the best way to reach the USDA's goal of 100% participation in NAIS by 2009. Colonel Randy Givens, also with Liberty Ark, has published an article addressing the USDA's actions, entitled "The USDA Shell Game on 'Voluntary' versus 'Mandatory' Participation in NAIS," available on the Liberty Ark website.
As dairy and beef farmers in Michigan will tell you, their state government has no intention of stopping. At the North Branch meeting, one cattleman said, "If we don't have those tags on our cattle next March, we won't be able to take them off our farm - for sale or slaughter. We'll be out of business." Like it or not, Phase 2 of NAIS has come to the Midwest. And with the USDA funding states across the country to implement NAIS, the entire program will continue to spread.
To learn more about NAIS, and what it means for farmers and consumers, visit www.libertyark.net.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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