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 Feb 15, 2006      
 Collection of Info regarding the upcoming mandatory
"National Animal Identification System"

The "National Animal
Identification System" -

A Threat to Personal Privacy
and to the Viability of Small Farms

By Mary Zanoni

February 15, 2006

Last issue's "Scribblings" column raised several issues about the wisdom of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). As executive director of Farm for Life™, a sustainable-farming support group, I have been studying the possible effects of the NAIS for several months. My conclusion is that the NAIS will be extremely damaging to smaller farmers and to all rural citizens, who keep any sort of livestock for their own use or as companion animals. Moreover, the damage to personal privacy, that would result from the NAIS, would harm all citizens.

The NAIS Will Be Mandatory, Unless Farmers and Other Citizens Act to Stop It

In April 2005, the USDA published a Draft Strategic Plan (Plan) and Draft Program Standards (Standards) concerning the NAIS, which unequivocally state that the USDA intends to make the NAIS mandatory by January 2008. (Plan, pages 2, 10; Standards, page 1)2 (The Plan and Standards can be downloaded from www.usda.gov/nais.) The NAIS principally was developed by a private industry association, the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA). Prominent NIAA participants are the largest meat-industry corporations, and the manufacturers and marketers of high-tech animal ID equipment. Beginning in 2002, the NIAA used 9/11, and subsequently, the BSE scares to lobby the USDA for a nationwide, all-livestock registration and tracking system.

Every Animal Owner Would Have to Submit to the
Government/Private Industry Surveillance of the NAIS

The NAIS would require two types of mandatory registration. First, premises registration would require every person who owns even one horse, cow, pig, chicken, sheep, pigeon, or virtually any livestock animal, to register their home, including owner's name, address, and telephone number, and keyed to Global Positioning System coordinates (for satellite-assisted surveillance of homes and farms), in a federal database under a 7-digit "premises ID number." (Standards, pages 3-4, 10-12; Plan, page 5.) The NAIS even goes so far as to apply to owners of "clams," stocked fish such as "catfish," "striped bass," or "trout," and "shrimp" or "scallops." These species are specifically included in the Standards (page 15), and in the USDA's "Technical Supplement to Draft Program Standards" (July 26, 2005, pages 12-13.)

Second, individual animal identification will require owners to obtain a 15-digit ID number, also to be kept in the federal database, for any animal that ever leaves the premises of its birth. Thus, even if you are raising animals only for your own food, you will have to obtain an individual ID to send animals to a slaughterhouse, to sell or buy animals, to obtain stud service. (Large-scale producers will be allowed to identify, e.g., large groups of pigs or broilers raised and processed together by a single group ID number. However, owners raising single animals or a small number, under most circumstances will have to identify each animal individually for purposes of slaughter, sale, or breeding.) If you own a non-food animal such as a horse, you would need individual ID if you ever left your property for shows, or trail rides. The form of ID will most likely be a tag or microchip containing a Radio Frequency Identification Device, designed to be read from a distance. (Plan, page 10; Standards, pages 6, 12, 20, 27-28.) In addition to this "electronic identification," the USDA will allow "industry" to decide whether to require the use of "retinal scan" and "DNA" identification for all animals. (Plan, page 13.)

Within this system, for animals subject to individual animal identification, the animal owner would be required to report: the birthdate of an animal, the application of every animal's ID tag, every time an animal leaves or enters the property, every time an animal loses a tag, every time a tag is replaced, the slaughter or death of an animal, or if any animal is missing. Such events must be reported within 24 hours. (Standards, pages 12-13, 17-21.) The USDA plans "enforcement" to ensure compliance with the NAIS. (Standards, page 7; Plan, page 17.) The USDA has not yet specified the nature of this "enforcement," but presumably it would include fines and/or seizure of animals.

A more recent development is a movement, spearheaded by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, to "privatize" the database, which will contain all the premises and animal identification information and tracking information. As reported in Lancaster Farming, August 6, 2005, page E-22, the NCBA has lobbied the House Agriculture Committee to urge the USDA to put the NAIS database administration into the control of a private industry group, to be chosen by the NCBA itself. As explained below, such "privatization" will only worsen the prospects for invasion of privacy and economic pressures on small farmers and homesteaders.

The NAIS Is Just One of Many Invasions of Personal Privacy
Caused by the Sudden and Rapidly Increasing Use of RFID Tags

Livestock producers have been concerned that the confidentiality of the huge amount of business and personal information to be gathered in the NAIS database will not be protected. This concern is well-founded. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to exempt the database from Freedom of Information Act requests, or from discovery in lawsuits.3 Moreover, the potential privatization of the NAIS will surely result in the same gross abuses already evident in private databases of financial information – the sale of citizens' most personal data, without their knowledge, to the highest bidder; and the vulnerability of citizens' information to hackers and thieves, because the President and Congress have utterly failed to subject the powerful private data industry to long-needed protections for citizens' privacy.

However, there is an even more fundamental concern with privacy: The rapidly expanding use of RFID technology to track citizens' movements and behavior. The following verifiable instances of RFID tracking are already being implemented, even though most Americans are still unaware of this threat to privacy.

  • Tracking of U.S. Citizens' Movements by RFID Chips in Passports.

    In October 2005, the State Department announced that, beginning in early 2006, passports will include RFID chips containing personal information and a digitized photograph of the passport holder. The State Department promulgated this RFID chip requirement, despite the potential for the chips to be read remotely by unauthorized persons, and despite the universal opposition of privacy groups to the chips. (www.networkworld.com/news/2005/102605-rfid-passport.html)


  • Tracking of schoolchildren by RFID identity cards.

    In early 2005, a California school district, working with a company that markets RFID tracking devices, began forcing all students to wear RFID tags at all times while in school, tracking the students' movements throughout the building. This was done without the knowledge or consent of parents. The parents, who learned that their children were being tracked only when the children came home wearing the RFID badges, objected strenuously. Due to the parents' objections, this particular tracking program was terminated. However, there remains the danger that other schools or institutions will be persuaded by RFID marketers to adopt similar programs. (www.epic.org/privacy/rfid/children.html)


  • Tracking of purchases and possession of consumer goods by hidden RFID tags.

    For several years large retailers, led by Wal-Mart, have mandated that their suppliers use RFID tags on shipping pallets and containers to track the locations of the merchandise at all times. Privacy advocates have been concerned about the potential for the RFID tags to be placed on individual items. These individual tags will allow retailers, or other marketing interests to track consumers wearing or carrying such items. The pending development of RFID readers that can operate at an extended distance would also allow marketers, the government, or even nosy neighbors to determine what items are within a citizen's home.

    In July 2004, in (a hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Linda M. Dillman, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Wal-Mart, downplayed such privacy concerns, stating that RFID tagging of individual items was "at least 10 years away." However, Wal-Mart was selling individually RFID-tagged items within a few months of Dillman's testimony. (www.spychips.com) Individually RFID-tagged items, without any notice to consumers, were being sold at an Eckerd drug store by early 2005. (Personal observation of the author.)


  • Tracking of people's medical information or location when, either voluntarily, or by order of a parent or legal guardian, microchips are placed under the skin.

    Since 2002, the VeriChip company has been developing electronically-readable microchips for use in people. VeriChip is promoting these devices as a means for finding lost children or Alzheimer's patients, or a means for medical personnel to secure health-related information in an emergency. Of course, bracelets, dog tags, or simple alert caretaking are perfectly adequate solutions to issues of availability of medical history or lost people, without the enormous potential for invasion of privacy that is inherent in making human microchipping "acceptable." Nonetheless, VeriChip claims to have sold some 2,000 human microchips. VeriChip's latest marketing effort involves offering free microchips for the residents of a Chattanooga, Tennessee, home for the disabled. Advocates for the disabled are opposing this microchipping of people who, because of their disabilities, cannot give informed consent. (National Public Radio, "All Things Considered," broadcast on 11/12/2005.

In this context, we can see the planned RFID-tagging, microchipping, and/or retinal scanning and DNA testing of all livestock as just part of a larger agenda. Both government and private industry are relentlessly pursuing a host of initiatives that would record and preserve, forever, every detail of what citizens buy and own, where they go, with whom they associate.

The NAIS plan is a compulsory registration with the government of all people who want to raise their own animal foods. The Bill of Rights does not contain a Constitutional Amendment specifically to protect one's right to produce one's own food. But, that is only because the generation of the Founders could never have imagined that American government could evolve into a system that would compel citizens to, in effect, ask for government permission to produce their own food.

Further, consider that livestock animals are legally a form of personal property. It is unprecedented for the United States government to conduct large-scale computer-aided surveillance of its citizens, simply because they own a common type of property. (The only exceptions are registration of motor vehicles and guns, due to their clear inherent dangers – but they are registered at the state level, not by the federal government. Moreover, those registration systems pre-date the widespread use of personal computers and the development of the Internet, so even the car and gun registration systems were never intended as the wide-spread threat to privacy and freedom that they have become today.) Surveillance of small-scale livestock owners is like the government subjecting people to surveillance for owning a couch, a TV, a lawnmower, or any item of personal property.

The NAIS Is an Economic Threat to Medium-Sized and Small Farms

The NIAA and USDA claim two principal benefits of the NAIS: First, enhancing export markets for U.S. livestock products; and second, allowing traceback to farms of animals' origin when animal diseases (such as BSE) are found. These "benefits" are of no use to most small farmers and homesteaders. Small farmers and homesteaders sell to their neighbors, or consume their animal products themselves – they don't profit from "export markets." Small farmers and homesteaders raise their animals in natural and healthy conditions – usually on pasture, with minimal home-raised or organic grain, with plenty of space for exercise and dispersal of waste – to assure that problems like BSE and bacterial contamination won't occur in the home-raised animals destined for their own tables.

The NAIS will create an unfair economic burden on small farmers and homesteaders, because animal owners will bear the costs of property and animal registration. As the USDA frankly admits:

"... there will be costs to producers" (Plan, page 11); "private funding will be required ... Producers will identify their animals and provide necessary records to the databases ... All groups will need to provide labor."(Plan, page 14)

In sum, there is no realistic chance of government funding to cover the costs of the program once it is established, and animal owners will have to pay the tab for premises registration fees, individual animal ID fees, reporting fees for events such as animals leaving a given premises or being slaughtered, and for equipment such as RFID tags, tag readers, or software needed to report to the database. The proposed privatization of the NAIS would only worsen the economic burden, since a private database holder would certainly want to make some profit from the system.

The NAIS would also, in fact, lessen, rather than improve, the security of America's animal foods. The NAIS is touted by the USDA and agri-corporations as a way to make our food supply "secure" against diseases or terrorism. However, most people instinctively understand that real food security comes from raising food yourself, or buying from a local farmer you actually know. The USDA plan will only stifle local sources of production through over-regulation, and additional costs. Ultimately, if the NAIS goes into effect, more consumers will have to buy food produced by the large-scale industrial methods, which multiply the effects of any food safety and disease problems. Moreover, the NAIS system will create opportunities for havoc, such as the deliberate introduction of diseased animals into premises containing large numbers of a given species.

The NAIS "traceback" system would be much less effective against BSE than a system of testing every slaughtered cow. Europe and Japan perform testing of every cow. The USDA has refused such testing; but surely, the testing would be less expensive than a huge tracking system covering every cow, horse, donkey, llama, alpaca, pig, sheep, goat, pigeon, chicken, duck, farmed fish, etc. etc.

Moreover, the NAIS system would be of no use at all in dealing with the most common types of meat contamination in the U.S., the occurrence of pathogens, such as listeria or E. coli in processed meat. One example of such contamination can be found at www.fsis.usda.gov/Fsis_recalls, 2005 recalls numbers 033-2005 and 040-2005. Those incidents involved over one million pounds (enough to serve at least 4 million people) of ground beef contaminated with coliform bacteria, distributed nationwide by a single processor. Such instances of contamination are not discovered until the meat has been distributed into the supply chain. Assuming that a cow yields 500 pounds of ground meat, the one million pounds in the foregoing recalls represents meat from over 2,000 cows. There is no way to identify individual cows from one million pounds of hamburger; no way to tell if any contamination came from a cow, multiple cows, or from the processing itself; and no benefit to consumer safety in such a situation from the NAIS system.

In sum, when meat becomes contaminated at a large packing plant, millions of consumers in all 50 states can be exposed to the dangerous product. In contrast, an incident of impaired food at a small-scale farm or local processor might affect only a few dozen consumers in a single county. Thus, by encouraging increased consolidation of the meat industry, the NAIS would actually make America's food supply more unstable, and less safe.

How Small Farmers Can Affect the Future of the NAIS

The USDA presently does not plan to finalize its rules to establish mandatory ID, until the Summer of 2006. As stated above, individual states, such as Wisconsin, may be planning earlier implementation, but even in such states, widespread objection by animal owners can still affect whether plans become permanent, and whether reasonable exceptions may be established.

First, small-scale livestock owners should not participate in any so-called "voluntary" state or federal program to register farms or animals. The USDA is using farmers' supposed willingness to enter a "voluntary" program as a justification for making the program mandatory. (See Plan, "Executive Summary" and pages 7-8.) If a state or extension official urges registration of your premises or livestock, question them about whether the registration is mandatory or voluntary, and about any deadline for registration; and ask them for a copy of the legislation, or rule, establishing any claimed authority to require such registration.

Second, animal owners should contact breed associations, organic and sustainable farming organizations, or general farming interest groups, and ask them to oppose the NAIS. Also ask such organizations to start or support campaigns of letter-writing to officials, and of commenting on the USDA rules scheduled to be issued in Summer 2006 (and any similar state rules). Although the majority of livestock-industry groups have been supporting the NAIS concept up until now, that support may erode, as the inherent problems of the NAIS become more obvious. For example, the Livestock Marketing Association, the main industry group representing auctions, recently announced that its members will not take part in the NAIS in the absence of government funding and assistance. (U.S. Farm Report broadcast of 11/13/2005.)

Third, animal owners can individually write their federal and state legislators. You can find contact information for both federal and state officials through www.vote-smart.org, or through the federal government's site, www.firstgov.gov. Remember, the conventional wisdom is that individual letters sent by postal mail carry more weight than e-mails or signing on to form letters. But, any input is more useful than no input, so if you don't have time for an individual letter, use e-mail, telephone, group petitions, or any means you can. Also, remember that both individual initiative and group initiatives count, so even after you have sent a letter, continue, if you can, to respond to calls for action asking you to send additional messages to government officials.

In particular, the USDA's planned issuance of a NAIS rule for public comment in July 2006, will be a crucial juncture. Be aware of press coverage or action alerts at that time, and when you hear that the public comment period on a NAIS rule is open, please take the time to submit an individual comment.

Finally, if the time comes when the NAIS (or a state equivalent) is about to go into effect as presently planned, and you feel your rights are being violated, you can contact groups that may provide legal representation without cost. Some sources of information to try are:

  1. Farmers' Legal Action Group, www.flaginc.org, 651-223-5400


  2. The American Civil Liberties Union, www.aclu.org; for the ACLU in your state, see the pull-down menu on the bottom of that page, under "your local ACLU"


  3. The Rutherford Institute, www.rutherford.org, 434-978-3888


  4. The American Bar Association's guide to legal services.


1. This information is not intended to provide legal advice. Legal advice can only be given by a lawyer licensed to practice in your state, and familiar with your particular circumstances.

2. The "premises identification" and "animal identification" components of the NAIS, which are explained below, would be mandatory in January 2008. The full animal tracking system would become mandatory in January 2009; hence the statement in the Standards, page 1, that the whole system would be mandatory by January 2009. In addition, to receive grants from the USDA for pilot projects, some states are attempting to make surveillance systems mandatory at a much earlier date. For example, Wisconsin is attempting to compel premises and animal identification by late 2005, or during 2006.

3. The proponents of a "privatized" database may assume that placing the information in the hands of a private industry group, rather than in the hands of a government agency, will exempt the database from FOIA requests or litigation discovery. That assumption is quite mistaken, because generally, when government contracts out normally public functions to private companies, the companies are held to the same standards that the government would be.

A version of this article first appeared in "Sheep! Magazine," Vol. 27 No. 1, Jan/Feb 2006. It may not be reprinted or reproduced in any forum, or publication principally directed toward the sheep industry or sheep farming/husbandry. Requests to reprint the article in other media may be directed to the author at 315-386-3199 or e-mail.


From:  Julie Smithson
Sent:  2/14/2006 10:49:01 AM Pacific Standard 
Subject:  Very Important and Very Time-Sensitive: Regarding Natl Animal ID (includes all pets)
Animal ID Makers in Hog Heaven - Comments on NAIS "Draft Program Standards" and "Draft Strategic Plan"
(Note: This is an Excellent article -- a must-read for anyone with even one pet or livestock. If pressed for time, at least please scroll down and read number 5, which is about two-thirds of the way through the article. This article should be circulated as widely as possible, as Soon as possible!)
February 6, 2006
 By Mary-Louise Zanoni, Ph.D. (Cornell), J.D. (Yale) mlz@slic.com  
Published in Magic City Morning Star
 Millinocket, Maine

To submit a Letter to the Editor: editor@magic-city-news.com



Comments on NAIS "Draft Program Standards" and "Draft Strategic Plan"

I have carefully examined the Draft Program Standards (Standards) and Draft Strategic Plan (Plan) issued by the USDA (the Department) on April 25, 2005, in furtherance of the Department's proposed National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Many aspects of the Standards and Plan appear to create insurmountable legal, fiscal, and logistical problems. The comments below address five categories of problems:

  1. Constitutional infirmities of the proposed program;
  2. An enormous economic cost to animal owners, the States, the Department, and, ultimately, to American taxpayers and consumers for a program likely to be ineffectual;
  3. Weaknesses in the stated rationales for the program;
  4. A lack of consideration of alternative, far cheaper and more easily administered measures which would more effectively protect animal health and food security; and
  5. A lack of notice and an opportunity to be heard for medium-scale, small-scale, and home farmers, and for other citizens owning livestock solely for their own use or pleasure, in the Department's process thus far.

1. The Standards and Plan Violate Many Provisions of the Constitution.

First Amendment Violations - Many Christians (as well as persons of other religious beliefs) cannot comply with the Department's proposed program because it violates their First Amendment right to free exercise. For example, the Old Order Amish believe they are prohibited from registering their farms or animals in the proposed program due to, inter alia, Scriptural prohibitions.

The way of life of these devout Christians requires them to use horses for transportation, support themselves by simple methods of dairy farming (most ship milk to cheese producers, since their faith prohibits the use of the technologies required for modern fluid milk production), and raise animals for the family's own food.

The proposed NAIS would place the Amish and other people of faith in an untenable position of violating one or another requirement of their most important beliefs. Further, it is not unlikely that enactment of the NAIS as presently proposed would force the Amish and other devout people to seek migration to another nation. It would greatly injure the status of our country among the community of nations if the Department's actions were to result in the forced migration of such simple, devout, and peaceful people.

Fourth Amendment Violations - The Department proposes surveillance of every property where even a single animal of any livestock species is kept; and to require, at a minimum, the radio-frequency identification tagging of every animal. (Standards, pp. 3-4, 6, 17-18.)

Perhaps the Department had in mind as its model large commercial facilities where thousands, or in many cases tens of thousands, of animals are housed or processed. However, aside from large livestock businesses, there are also tens of millions of individual American citizens who own a pet horse, keep a half-dozen laying hens, or raise one steer, pig, or lamb for their own food.

In these instances, the "premises" that the Department plans to subject to GPS satellite surveillance (Standards, p. 10) and distance radio-frequency reading (Standards, p. 27) are the homes of these tens of millions of citizens. The government is not permitted to use sense-enhancing technologies to invade the privacy of citizens' homes. Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001). The sanctity of the home is entitled to privacy protection in circumstances where an industrial complex is not. See Dow Chemical v. United States, 476 U.S. 227, 238 (1986).

Therefore, the Department should abandon its present proposals, insofar as they entail enormously intrusive surveillance against unsuspecting innocent citizens who have done nothing more than to own an animal (a common form of personal property under the American system of law).
Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Violations - The proposed NAIS is the first attempt by the federal government at forced registration in a huge, permanent federal database of individual citizens' real property (the homes and farms where animals are kept) and personal property (the animals themselves). (Standards, pp. 8-13; Plan, pp. 8, 12-13)

Indeed, the only general systems of permanent registration of personal property in the United States are systems administered by the individual states for two items that are highly dangerous if misused: motor vehicles and guns. It is difficult to imagine any acceptable basis for the Department to subject the owner of a chicken to more intrusive surveillance than the owner of a gun.

For example, whereas the owner of a long gun generally can take the gun and go hunting beyond the confines of his or her own property without notifying the government, the Department proposes that the chicken owner, under pain of unspecified "enforcement," must report within 24 hours any instance of a chicken leaving or returning to the registered property. (Standards, pp. 13, 18-19, 21; Plan, p. 17.)

Even more important than the trammeling of basic property rights under the program is the insult to fundamental human rights, which must remain free from government interference.

Surely it is overreaching for the Department to propose, as it has, the constant surveillance of one's home and animals when the citizen is only attempting to raise food for the household or for a limited local area, and there is no intention of distributing the food on a wider scale.

The foregoing numerous constitutional infirmities are bound to enmesh the Department and state governments in extremely costly litigation for years to come. Therefore, please reconsider the Department's plans to institute a program so at odds with fundamental American values.

2. Practical and Cost Impediments to Enforcement.

As discussed more fully below (see no. 5, Lack of Notice), most owners of a small number of livestock are not even aware of the USDA's proposals at present (see, e.g., "Helping to Head Off A Livestock I.D. Crisis," Lancaster Farming, May 28, 2005, p. A38, discussing difficulties of informing all farmers of the NAIS requirements).

The Department does not plan to issue "alerts" to inform livestock owners of the requirements until April 2007, only eight months prior to the date when it will be mandatory to submit the GPS coordinates of one's home and the RFID of one's animal to the USDA database. The final rule governing mandatory home and animal surveillance will not be published until "fall 2007" (Plan, p. 10), leaving only a couple of months, at best, for notification and compliance before January 2008.

The citizens apt to own small numbers of livestock are rural dwellers who have chosen their way of life partly as a means of escaping excessive corporate and government bureaucracy. These factors suggest the likelihood of a noncompliance problem of heroic proportions.

In addition, the proposals call for an animal owner to report, within 24 hours, any missing animal, any missing tag, the sale of an animal, the death of an animal, the slaughter of an animal, the purchase of an animal, the movement of an animal off the farm or homestead, the movement of an animal onto the farm or homestead. (Standards, pp. 13, 18-19, 21.)
The Department plans to demand the following actions by all animal owners according to the stated timeline:

  • January 2008: All premises registered with enforcement (regardless of livestock movements).
  • January 2008: Animal identification required with enforcement.
  • January 2009: Enforcement for the reporting of animal movements." (Plan, p. 17; emphasis added.)

Moreover, the NAIS will "prohibit any person" from removing an I.D. device, causing the removal of an I.D. device, applying a second I.D. device, altering an I.D. device to change its number, altering an I.D. device to make its number unreadable, selling or providing an unauthorized I.D. device, and "manufacturing, selling, or providing an identification device that so closely resembles an approved device that it is likely to be mistaken for official identification." (Standards, p. 7.)

Thousands of enforcement agents would have to be employed to find the potentially tens of millions of unregistered premises and violations of the animal identification and animal tracking requirements. Indeed, beyond the expense, the specter of these government agents entering onto citizens' property to find possible unregistered homes and animals brings to mind the actions of a frightening police state, not the actions of a government agency whose mission should be to assist rural people, not to hunt them down.

The proposed NAIS makes clear that animal owners will have to pay the costs of registration and surveillance of their homes, farms, and livestock. ("[T]here will be costs to producers, private funding will be required..." (Plan, p. 11) "Producers will identify their animals and provide necessary records to the databases... All groups will need to provide labor..." (Plan, p. 14.) In fact, the financial and labor requirements for animal owners would be huge. Livestock owners, even the owner of one pet horse who takes rides off the property, would have to invest in RFID reading devices and software to report information. The Standards and Plan do not enlighten us about the amount of these costs.

Many rural people do not have (and do not want) computers at home and even those who have them often cannot get high-speed connections. Even if some system of written or manual reporting were allowed as an alternative, this would only greatly increase the labor required for citizens who elected it. Indeed, with or without access to technology, the labor requirement would be huge.

Consider a small-to-moderate size dairy, milking 160 head. A total of about 150 cattle (75 bull calves, 50 cull cows, and 25 excess heifers) would leave such a farm each year. The farmer would be required to report each tagging of an animal and each event of an animal shipped off the farm (300 reportable events).

Plus let's assume that the farmer has 50 growing heifers outside during pasture season, and, as heifers are prone to do, they breach the fence and go off into the neighbor's fields twice during the season, and the farmer has to herd them back. This results in an additional 250 reportable events - 50 instances of heifers having to be tagged (strictly speaking, the rules would require tagging before they leave the farm -- (Plan, p. 8) -- one hopes the enforcement agents might overlook the technical violation of the farmer perhaps not being able to tag them until they are herded back), plus 100 instances of individual heifers leaving the farm, and 100 instances of individual heifers returning to the farm.

The farmer now has at least 550 total reportable events, or an average of over 1.5 times per day, 365 days per year, that the farmer must interrupt his or her other work and submit data on premises identification, animal identification, and an event code to the USDA's database. Further, the animals shipped from this farm would generate at least an additional 600 reportable events per year for other stakeholders (i.e., 75 bull calves into and out of the auction house, then onto a veal farm, off the veal farm, and to a slaughter facility (375 events); 50 cull cows into and out of the auction house, then to a slaughter facility (150 events); and 25 heifers into and out of the auction house, then onto new farms (75 events).

Thus, only one modest-sized farm would generate well over a thousand events per year requiring recordkeeping and reporting.

Indeed, the only economic advantage of the NAIS is an advantage to the corporations that manufacture high-tech tags, ID equipment, and the vast amount of hardware and software required for the system. This "advantage" is totally outweighed by the economic costs to both large and small segments of the livestock industry and the social and civil-rights costs to small producers, home farmers, and non-farming animal owners. The Department's mission should be to protect and foster agriculture, not to protect and foster manufacturers of tagging and computing equipment.

3. Infirmities in Supposed Justifications.

The primary justifications given by the Department for the NAIS are animal health issues, specifically, foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). (Plan, p. 1.)

There has been no FMD in the United States for over 70 years and the possibility of its reintroduction is speculative. Of course, FMD is a viral disease exclusively of cloven-hoofed animals and does not infect humans. Moreover, FMD is primarily an economic disease. Animals may become temporarily lame or refuse to eat because of the lesions caused by the virus, but nearly all animals recover within a few weeks.

Thus, the primary effects are a setback in weight gain for animals produced for meat, reduced lactation in dairy animals, and restrictions on exports for countries where FMD is present. NAIS proponents need to carefully consider whether a disease, of no risk to humans, not present in the United States and only of temporary effect to animals, can possibly justify a gravely flawed system such as the proposed NAIS.

There have been only two known cases of BSE in the United States. There have been no cases of humans contracting, while within the United States, the related condition of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The Department has put into place all necessary safeguards and assures that the American beef supply is safe and that transmission of BSE prions to humans cannot now occur in the United States. After the banning of meat and bone meal from ruminant feeds in 1997, any possible instances of BSE would now occur only in relatively old cattle.

Obviously, the number of such cattle diminishes yearly and even assuming the longest potential lifespan of cattle; any slight possibility of BSE in the U.S. cattle herd will disappear in about 12 to 15 years. Thus, BSE is a very low-incidence, self-limiting, rapidly disappearing disease in the United States. BSE has not resulted in transmission of a single case of human disease in the United States. BSE is, rather than a health threat, primarily an economic problem affecting exports and imports of cattle and beef. It is apparent that the Department's position that sufficient controls are in place is correct. Thus, as with FMD, BSE cannot justify the creation of a huge, permanent, expensive, and intrusive NAIS.

A further asserted justification is the risk of "an intentional introduction of an animal disease." (Plan, p. 7.) Far from preventing deliberate interference with the livestock industry or food supply, the proposed plan creates numerous new opportunities for mayhem. The Department's own proposals suggest that the counterfeiting and theft of tags will quickly become a problem. (Standards, p. 7.)

Application of counterfeit tags could easily mask the introduction of a sick animal into a facility containing thousands or tens of thousands of other animals. Consider also the scenario in which someone brings a sick animal to a slaughter facility and falsely reports its farm of origin as a large operation with tens of thousands of animals in production. The resulting baseless scare has the potential to create a huge disruption of food supplies and the profitability of animal agriculture, regardless of whether the hoax might ultimately be discovered.

4. Lack of Consideration of Alternate Methods.

As discussed above, the NAIS is a violation of civil rights, extremely expensive and burdensome, likely to be ineffective, and not justified by human health, animal health, or food safety considerations. Given these numerous and probably insurmountable flaws, the Department should carefully consider alternative methods that would be much more successful in accomplishing the stated objectives.

The security of America's food supply and the resilience of livestock in the face of diseases are best served by the decentralization and dispersal of food production and processing, and of the breeding and maintaining of livestock. If more citizens could depend on food raised and processed within, say, 100 miles of their homes, the danger of large-scale disruptions would be minimized, the costs of transport would be less affected by volatile fuel prices, and any food-borne diseases that might occur would be contained by the natural geographic limits of the system.

Similarly, if animals, such as cattle, for example, are kept in small herds of, say, ten to a hundred animals, infectious diseases will have much more difficulty in spreading beyond a discrete geographical area. In this regard, the NAIS would actually be counterproductive, since it would tend to drive more small producers and small processors out of business. Thus, the Department should consider an approach and programs to support and promote smaller, local herds and local food processing.

Smaller herds would also entail the possibility of many more closed herds than our agricultural model supports at present. Especially in dairy operations, where artificial insemination is the norm, only modest government incentives would be necessary to encourage small and medium sized producers to maintain closed herds. In the case of beef cattle, and of other species not commonly using AI, a state-level program requiring vet checks and recordkeeping for new animals introduced to herds would be obviously far simpler, as well as more effective, than the proposed NAIS.
Another contribution the Department could make to food safety and animal health at low cost would be the encouragement of integrated producer/processor operations. Despite economic and marketing forces that are stacked against them, many small producers throughout the United States still process and market their own dairy products, or raise meat that is processed on site or at small local slaughterhouses and distributed directly to consumers or to local retail outlets.

Consumers love not only the high quality of such products, but also the assurance that comes from actually knowing the farmers who, for example, finish their steers on grass and have the butchering done at a local small business. Very modest programs of financial incentives and encouragements to the streamlining of federal and state permitting procedures would help this hopeful segment of our nation's agriculture to flourish.

Many recent developments in the agricultural sciences have demonstrated time and again that the least-cost and least intrusive method is the most effective and protective of health. For example, leading-edge research now rejects the routine deworming of all cattle and sheep, in favor of eliminating parasite-susceptible individuals as breeding stock. The once-heralded approach of routine deworming, it turns out, only resulted in resistant super-parasites and perpetuation in the gene pool of animal families naturally subject to the largest infestations.

Similarly, in recent years our thinking has done an about-face on the subject of routine use of antibiotics in the feed of beef steers and dairy heifers, and in udder infusions for dry dairy cows who exhibit no clinical mastitis. Once heralded as a means of increasing weight gain and providing extra insurance against fresh-cow mastitis, those routine uses of antibiotics in healthy animals are now rejected because they are known to produce resistant super-bacteria that may cause not only animal infections, but human infections.

Unfortunately, it takes years for knowledge gained in the latest research to reach the farmer, and the inappropriate overuse of anthelmintics and antibiotics is still very common. Thus, another low-cost and simple initiative the Department could undertake would be an intensive educational initiative to end the inappropriate use of drugs in animal agriculture.

The foregoing are just a few of the many possible more effective animal-health and food-safety initiatives to which the Department could devote its finite resources. It is appropriate for the Department to study fully these alternatives before concluding that a bloated NAIS bureaucracy is our only alternative.

5. Lack of Notice and an Opportunity to be Heard for Small Farmers and Animal Owners.

The original impetus for a nationwide animal I.D. program came from a private membership group, the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA). (Plan, pp. 1, 4.) The members of the NIAA include such well-known industry entities as Cargill Meat Solutions, Monsanto Company, Schering-Plough, and the National Pork Producers Council.

Further, of those NIAA members listed as "National Associations and Commercial Organizations," nearly 25% appear to be manufacturers and marketers of identification technology systems. In April 2002, the NIAA "initiated meetings that led to the development of" the NAIS. (Plan, p. 1.) The NIAA "established a task force to provide leadership in creating an animal identification plan." (Plan, p. 4.) The NIAA already had been promoting animal I.D. for months before the Department, through APHIS, became involved in the effort. Moreover, the Department says that "[t]he development of [the Draft Program Standards] was facilitated by significant industry feedback." (Standards, p. 1.) Essentially, a private group has dominated animal I.D. thinking and has dictated the NAIS plan now being proposed by the Department.

Moreover, the Department asserts a "broad support for NAIS" (Plan, p. 1) when there is no such support. The Department says that it conducted "listening sessions" for six months (June-November 2004) on NAIS. However, only 60 comments were apparently made during these six months of sessions. If the Department had made a truly widespread attempt to determine citizens' views on animal I.D., surely it would have received far more than 60 comments on an issue that affects tens of millions of Americans.

The Department relies upon the NIAA's survey of itself as supposed evidence of public support. (Plan, p. 7.) The Department quotes responses from the survey and cites the National Institute for Animal Agriculture as its source. However, when one visits that page, one finds a statement by the NIAA that the survey is not scientific, that the survey's results are intended for use by NIAA members only, and that any reproduction of the survey is prohibited.

Thus, the Department is presenting as "evidence" a private, unscientific report that the public is forbidden to quote in opposition. To correct this gross violation of normal agency procedure, the Department must immediately publish this entire NIAA survey in the docket and issue a press release specifying that the public is permitted to use the survey freely in studying the relationship of the NIAA to the genesis of the NAIS. This is not only a spurious example of "public support" but also an affirmatively misleading rationale for a mandatory NAIS. It tells us nothing about truly public support to say that the NIAA, an organization of the largest livestock businesses and manufacturers of identification equipment, considers mandatory I.D. to be good for its own private interests.

One further troubling instance of the failure to consider the needs of the larger public deserves mention. The NIAA lists as public institutional members some state departments of agriculture and animal health commissions. These include representatives of several states with significant populations of members of plain faiths, e.g., Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa. Yet it appears no consideration whatsoever was given to the fact that the NAIS as proposed would violate the right of these citizens to practice their religion without government hindrance.

Thus, the NAIS is not the result of any true consensus or concern for the welfare of the citizenry as a whole. Rather, the NAIS is the predictable result of allowing a small coterie of financially interested "stakeholders" to create the agenda for animal identification.

NAIS Information RFID Information
National Animal ID Run Amok Group Fears RFID Chips
USDA Launches National Animal ID Site Tracking School Kids
Animal Identification Directory National Animal ID Run Amok
Roll Out Official NAIS ID Numbers RFID Protects Elk Herds
Why You Should Oppose NAIS NH: Approves 'Tracking Device'
Agriculture unveils draft for animal ID system Fingerprint Check Coming
The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) RFID And The Apocalypse
USDA Awards $14.3 Million Satan's Micro Minions
Comment Period for Animal ID Extended Raise an Alarm
USDA Unveils Multi-Year Draft Strategic Plan  
TX: Premises & Animal Identification  
What Now?  
NAIS Discussion  
Sign The Petition  


The NAIS proposals as embodied in the Standards and Plan are unworkable because of economic costs, the huge burdens of reporting, and enormous and needless complexity. Their justifications based on animal diseases and food safety would not be served but in fact would be harmed by the NAIS. The Department has failed to consider numerous alternative methods that might actually further animal health and food security without the vast problems of the proposed NAIS. The Department has limited any input on the NAIS chiefly to a small group of parties with a preexisting bias toward mandatory animal ID; the Department did not make its plans known to small farming interest groups and did not seek any input from such groups. Last, and first, the most fatal flaw of the proposed NAIS is its disregard for fundamental human rights enshrined in our Constitution: the right to religious freedom, the right of property ownership, the right of privacy.

Not since Prohibition has any government agency attempted to enshrine in law a system, which so thoroughly stigmatizes and burdens common, everyday behavior and is so certain to meet with huge resistance from the citizens it unjustly targets.

Therefore, the Department should:

  1. withdraw the present Standards and Plan as failing to embody a fair or workable system;
  2. reconsider whether, particularly in light of the present effective measures against BSE, any animal I.D. scheme is warranted at present;
  3. consider implementing the low cost and easily undertaken measures that would more effectively protect animal health, human health, and the food supply;
  4. review its procedures for development of programs such as NAIS to correct the limitation of input to self-selected groups and the failure to notify the vast majority of affected parties; and
  5. institute procedures to assure that, in the future, proposed programs will not be permitted to threaten the constitutional rights of citizens.

Very truly yours,

Mary Zanoni, Ph.D. (Cornell), J.D. (Yale),

Executive Director of Farm for Life (Trademark)

Reliable Answers: News and Commentary http://www.reliableanswers.com/

Copyright 2006, Magic City Morning Star.


Additional and very important recommended reading:

National Animal ID Run Amok

(Note: This is what would happen if this goes through, not what has happened -- as of February 14, 2006.)

February 12, 2006
By Cheryl M. Eggers cmeggers@yahoo.com 
Nemo, South Dakota


The USDA has a new program coming to a state near you. South Dakota has begun and so far the program is voluntary. Wisconsin's program is not. As of Jan. 1, if you have even one animal on your premises and are not registered, you would be subject to a $5000 fine.

The plan is to register every property where even one 'livestock' animal is kept, 90 year old grandma with 4 chickens included. The additionally, each animal which ever leaves it's place of origin (Grandma takes her chicken to the fair, or one gets out and visit's the neighbor) would have a personal id tag/number. If you have a large enough operation, you can do a lot number for herds of say chickens.

This is how my life would have looked if the proposed regulations would have been in place in 2005. Don't worry; they won't go into effect until January 1, 2008. Then this, too, could be you.

Life Under the Animal ID System

"Along about March of 2005 my brother and his wife moved to town and gave us 3 hens as pets for the kids. He had to file 2 sets of paperwork, one to notify the government of where the hens were and one to notify them that their premises was no longer keeping animals as they were moving to town. Total forms - 4

, within 24 hours, had to file 2 sets of paperwork, one to obtain a premises identification number, giving name, social security number, address, and GPS number with the state and feds. I had to file 3 forms for the hens. Total forms - 4

Then my husband said, if you have to be here to feed 3 hens, why not get a few more. So we went in with the neighbors and ordered 100 chickens. They then had to file 1 form setting up a premises and 50 forms for owning the chicks + 50 forms since they would be 'off premises' boarding at my house. We had to file 50 forms reporting our 50 new chicks. Total forms - 151

Four of the chicks died in the first week, I had to file 3 incident reports, my neighbor had to file 1. Total forms - 4

In May, it was Mandy's 8th birthday and all she wanted for her birthday was a pretty little kid named Snowflake, so we went a little flaky and got Snowflake and a nanny named Carmen, needed to file 2 forms. Carmen didn't work out, though she was a beautiful goat she was terrified of children and one day tried to run away taking Snowflake with her and I had to file 2 incident reports. So she went to live with a neighbor and we traded for a new nanny named Paige. Both the neighbor and I had to file 2 reports each, one for the goat going, one for the goat coming. Paige is a sweetheart. I only had to lift her into the stanchion 3 times before she decided to do it all by herself.

My neighbor asked if we could let our goats come over to help with weed control, they did that for about 2 weeks. (14 incident reports X2 goats). We were getting almost a gallon of milk a day before we dried her off to go 'visiting' (both the neighbor and I had to fill out incident reports - 4). She did get out of the yard 3 times (3 incident reports X 2) and enjoyed going for walks with us once a week all summer (12 incident reports X 2) We are now hoping for triplets in the spring. The goats came home in November, requiring another 4 reports. Total forms - 74

Then one day I got a call in town, the neighbor's dogs had gotten into my chickens. I came home to find dead chickens all over my property and scattered down the road. We were devastated and filled the incident reports. 8 for the dead chickens and 4 for the ones that left the property. Total forms - 12

My dog thought what they had done looked like fun, so began killing chickens too. So far she has killed 8. Resulting in 8 reports for dead chickens and 2 for the two she tried to hide in the woods as they left the premises. Total forms - 10

On Labor day weekend, the neighbors came over and we killed 57 chickens. Dividing the paper work, we still had to file 57 forms between us. Total forms - 57

One of my chickens liked my neighbor. Every day she would make a beeline for his barnyard (he gives trail rides, forms went in for each time the horses left and returned). I had to file 1 report for her leaving and one for coming every day. Oh we tried to keep her home, but she was a little escape artist! 90 forms X 2 = 180 for that one chicken. Total forms - 180

I had 3 chickens die for no apparent reason or from injury from other chickens, or one punctured himself on a wire. Total forms - 3

This year we have filed 499 reports, tagged all animals, purchased the equipment and software to do this and it hasn't even been 12 months since we started. All we wanted to do was have a few animals to teach the kids a little about responsibility and grow some of our own food."

Imagine getting THAT for a Christmas letter?

Life under NAIS is for the birds!

More Information

Here are links so you can go check it out for yourself. Is this the America you want?

No NAIS - Is tracking the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and fighting it. You will find alerts, action items, news and articles there about NAIS as well as links to additional resources, sites and blogs fighting NAIS.
The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) - Government site that explains what they are planning.
Homesteading Today: Need an answer to an NAIS question - Post on Homesteading Today by a lawyer that give a great analysis from a legal standpoint.

NAIS Information

Copyright 2006, ReliableAnswers.com.
Article of the Month (by Mary Zanoni)

The "National Animal Identification System": A new threat to rural freedom?

January 3, 2006
By Mary Zanoni
Published by Countryside and Small Stock Journal
145 Industrial Drive
Medford, Wisconsin 54451
800-551-5691 or 715-785-7979
Fax: 715-785-7 414
To submit a Letter to the Editor: csymag@tds.net

Small farmers and homesteaders have, according to this story, chosen their way of life because they love their freedom -- the freedom from urban noise and congestion, the independence from government and corporate interference, the self-reliance of providing one's own shelter, water, food. Now the USDA's NAIS -- National Animal Identification System -- threatens the traditional freedoms of the rural way of life.

The story says that NAIS is the brainchild of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA). Who is the NIAA? Primarily two groups: (1) the biggest corporate players in U.S. meat production (for example, the National Pork Producers, Monsanto, Cargill Meat); and (2) the makers and marketers of high-tech animal ID equipment (for example, Digital Angel, Inc., EZ-ID/AVID ID Systems, Micro Beef Technologies, Ltd.). Beginning in 2002, the NIAA used 9/11 and subsequently the BSE scares to lobby the USDA for a nationwide, all-livestock registration and tracking system. The result is the USDA's proposed NAIS, set forth in a Draft Strategic Plan (Plan) and Draft Program Standards (Standards) released on April 25,2005. The Plan and Standards can be downloaded from http://www.USDA.gov/nais

The story goes on to say that any "benefits" of the NAIS are illusory and that the NAIS system would be of no use at all in dealing with the most common types of meat contamination in the U.S., the occurrence of pathogens such as Listeria or E. coli in processed meat.

The story says that NAIS will drive small producers out of the market, will prevent people from raising animals for their own food, will invade Americans' personal privacy, and will violate the religious freedom of Americans whose beliefs make it impossible for them to comply.

There is still time to oppose mandatory premises and animal identification. Small-scale keepers of livestock can take action to create an effective movement in opposition to the USDA/agricorporate plan. First, small-scale livestock owners should not participate in any so-called "voluntary" state or federal program to register farms or animals. The USDA is using farmers' supposed willingness to enter a "voluntary" program as a justification for making the program mandatory. (see Plan, "Executive Summary" and pp. 7-8.) If a state or extension official urges registration of your premises or livestock, question them about whether the registration is mandatory or voluntary and about any deadline for registration; and ask them for a copy of the legislation or rule establishing any claimed authority to require such registration.

Small farmers and livestock owners can also help inform and organize others. The USDA presently does not plan to finalize its rules to establish mandatory ID until the summer of 2006. (As stated above, individual states, such as Wisconsin, may be planning earlier implementation, but even in such states, widespread objection by animal owners can still affect whether plans become permanent and whether reasonable exceptions may be established.) Animal owners should contact breed associations, organic and sustainable farming organizations, or general farming interest groups and ask them to oppose the NAIS. Also ask such organizations to start or support campaigns of letter-writing to officials and of commenting on the USDA rules scheduled to be issued in summer 2006 (and any similar state rules).

NAIS opponents can also individually write their federal and state legislators. You can find contact information for both federal and state officials through http://www.vote-smart.org/ or through the federal government's site, http://www.firstgov.gov/. Remember, the conventional wisdom is that individual letters sent by postal mail carry more weight than e-mails or signing on to form letters. But any input is more useful than no input, so if you don't have time for an individual letter, use e-mail, telephone, group petitions, or any means you can. Also remember that both individual initiative and group initiatives count, so even after you have sent a letter, continue, if you can, to respond to calls for action asking you to send additional messages to government officials.

In particular, the USDA's planned issuance of a NAIS rule for public comment in July 2006 will be a crucial juncture. Be aware of press coverage or action alerts at that time, and when you hear that the public comment period on a NAIS rule is open, please take the time to submit an individual comment.

Finally, if the time comes when the NAIS (or a state equivalent) is about to go into effect as presently planned, and you feel your rights are being violated, you can contact groups that may provide legal representation without cost. Some sources of information to try are: (1) Farmers' Legal Action Group, http://http://www.flaginc/.org, 651-223- 5400; (2) the American Civil Liberties Union, http://www.aclu.org/; for the ACLU in your state, see the pull-down menu on the bottom of that page, under "your local ACLU;" and (3) http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/findlegalhelp/home.cfm, the American Bar Association's guide to legal services.

This information is not intended to provide legal advice. Legal advice can only be given by a lawyer licensed to practice in your state and familiar with your particular circumstances.








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