Get government out of NAIS
By Henry Lamb
June 1, 2006
America's economic power arises from the entrepreneurial spirit encouraged by a free market. Government involvement in the marketplace is always a deterrent, but is sometimes justified to insure consumer and worker safety, and fair competition. Government intrusion into the marketplace should always focus on these goals, and be as minimal as possible.
The National Animal Identification System, as proposed by the USDA, seeks to improve food safety by creating a mechanism through which animal disease can be traced to its source within 48 hours. While this sounds like an admirable goal, it is essentially, an unnecessary goal. The program has been devised, not because a need to trace animal disease has been identified, but because an international committee decided some years ago, that the world should have an animal identification system to protect international markets.
Neil Hammerschmidt, director of the U.S. National Animal Identification System, helped develop the international program before taking charge of the U.S. program. Immediately prior to his present position, from 1998 to 2003, he chaired the Identification and Information System Committee of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture. While NIAA may sound like a public interest organization, its membership reads like a who's who in industrial agriculture and technology, including entities such as Cargill Pork, Tyson, National Pork Producers Council, and Global Vet Link. The current U.S. program was actually proposed to the USDA by the NIAA in 2002.
Although the program embraces virtually all farm livestock – chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, horses, goats, pigs, cows, alpacas, llamas, and any other animal the USDA decides to add to the list, it is primarily designed to enhance the beef export market. In 2003, beef exports were $7.5 billion. The beef export market crashed that year, after the first case of "mad cow" disease was discovered in the U.S. In 2005, beef exports were only $1.22 billion.
It is certainly understandable that beef producers, packers, and their trade associations want to do something to restore the export market. But a massive, government-imposed National Animal Identification System is certainly not the way to do it.
Proponents of the program argue that a national ID program is now the international standard, and nothing short of this program will satisfy the international market. Moreover, proponents claim that Wal-Mart and McDonalds, the largest domestic markets, are demanding an identification program. If this is, indeed, the case, then let the market develop a program, but not one imposed by government on every farm, and farm animal, in the nation.
Let an innovative market create a voluntary system which commands a premium price for cattle enrolled in an ID program. There is simply no need for government to impose an intrusive, national program on every residence that has a single livestock animal, in order to help the beef industry regain its place in the international marketplace.
Let's be clear; the instigators and the promoters of the NAIS program seek first, to regain access to international markets. Food safety is little more than an excuse to justify the program. The goal of any effort to protect the food supply chain should focus on prevention, not after-the-fact tracing. The mere mention of "mad cow disease" stirs deep public fear, but this is a non-contagious disease that takes years to develop. A national tracking program would do nothing to prevent, or contain the disease. The disease is caused by contaminated feed, which was banned in the U.S. nearly ten years ago.
Foot and mouth disease, however, is a constant concern, even though there has not been an outbreak in the U.S. since 1929. The greatest risk of this disease comes from imported animals, where food safety concerns should be focused. Import control and vaccines offer the best avenue for prevention of this disease. A national back-tracking system is too late to be a meaningful safety tool here.
It is neither fair, nor necessary, to impose a government-mandated animal identification system on every person in the nation who owns even a single farm animal, in order to enhance the international market for beef exporters. Government should abandon the idea of forcing all people everywhere to report the location and movement of each of their farm animals to a central database. This program will do nothing to enhance food safety; it will only enhance the profits of the beef exporters, and the profits of those who produce the tracking technology. These are the people who are pushing the program, not the people who will have to comply with it.
How one state is dealing with the NAIS...
the proposed National
Animal Identification System
By Lincoln County, New Mexico
June 1, 2006
Resolution opposing the proposed National Animal Identification System:
Whereas the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing a Mandatory National Animal Identification System (NAIS) to be in place by 2009, and
Whereas the primary justifications for the NAIS given by the USDA are animal health issues, specifically, foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), and
Whereas there has been no reported FMD in the United States for over 70 years, and its reintroduction is speculative, and
Whereas there have been only two reported cases of BSE in the United States, with one cow being imported from Canada, and the other born and lived its entire life on the property where it was born, and
Whereas there have been no reported cases of humans contracting, while within the United States, the related condition of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and
Whereas the USDA has put into place all necessary safeguards to ensure that the American beef supply has an extremely low probability of the transmissions of BSE prions to humans, and
Whereas the intent of the NAIS is to monitor and control animal health, the effectiveness is questioned, due to the enormous size and complexity of the program, and
Whereas the proposed NAIS is in violation of the Fourth Amendment, i.e. "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated..." and,
Whereas the USDA plans to subject GPS satellite surveillance (Standards, page 10), and the distance radio-frequency reading (Standards, page 27), into the homes of millions of citizens, and 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), and the sanctity of the home is entitled to privacy protection in circumstances where an industrial complex is not, Dow Chemical v. U.S., 227, 238 (1986), and
Whereas Lincoln County is strongly opposed to the proposed enormously intrusive surveillance against unsuspecting citizens, and
Whereas the proposed NAIS is in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, by attempting a forced registration in a huge permanent federal data base of individual citizens' real property (the homes and land where animals are kept) and personal property (the animals themselves) (Standards, pages 8-13; Plan, pages 8, 12-13), and
Whereas the USDA is proposing that an animal owner, under the pain of unspecified "enforcement" must report, within 24 hours, any instance of any animal leaving or returning to the registered property is the trammeling of basic property rights and fundamental human rights, which must remain free from government interference, and is impossible to comply with in the rural ranching community, because of the areas involved, and the lack of knowledge of the location of each animal, and
Whereas the numerous Constitutional infirmities are bound to enmesh the USDA, the State of New Mexico and the livestock industry in extremely costly litigation for years to come, and
Whereas the financial and labor cost to the livestock producer is unknown for purchasing and installing the proposed computer chips/ear tags, a Radio Frequency Reading Instrument, a computer with a high-speed connection, a GPS receiver for monitoring range livestock, software for both the computer and GPS receiver, inputting the original data, and updating the required data on the loss or malfunction of any computer chip, and any movement from or return to the specified area of any and all livestock, could easily generate over a thousand data events per year requiring record keeping and reporting for even a modest sized livestock operation, and generate tens/hundreds of thousands of data events per year for medium to large livestock operations, which will be extremely time consuming and costly, and
Whereas there is an extremely high potential for unauthorized computer chips to enter the market, being obtained by unsuspecting livestock producers, which will result in erroneous data being utilized and reported with the potential for unsuspecting liability, and
Whereas ear tags on range livestock are easily lost, identifying the original livestock number, when two or more ear tags are lost, is impractical, if not impossible, and replacing lost ear tags on range livestock is essential, impossible, except when the livestock are gathered, and even then, not all livestock can necessarily be located, and
Whereas the costs of the NAIS will surely be beyond the economic benefits for most small animal producers, and force them out of business, which will also have a devastating economic affect not only on the small producers, but the rural communities, counties, and state, and
Whereas the human is the most fallible in the data inputting and transferring process, where even one error has the potential to cause irreparable harm to a livestock producer, and
Whereas with an anticipated transfer of hundreds of millions of data points every year, with the number of historically proven anticipated errors, has the potential of creating an enormous lack of confidence in the system, identifying locations where problems may not occur, and the potential for extensive liability charges where no liability exists, and
Whereas even one mistake by someone entering a multi-digit number into the data base could easily transfer the liability of a diseased animal to another livestock producer, and
Whereas an animal may not necessarily have a disease when it leaves the producer's premises, but a disease is identified later, and it cannot be proven when the animal contracted the disease, the liability will surely be placed on the livestock producer, since every movement of the animal may not be entered into the data base, and
Whereas any centralized computer data base can easily be breached by a "computer hacker," and the protection of personal private information is highly suspect, and
Whereas there is no proposal for communicating data to the existing state animal health agencies, and
Whereas New Mexico and other "brand" states have had animal identification and tracking systems in place for over 100 years, and
Whereas brand state agencies have successfully demonstrated, on a continuing basis, the ability to track animals for animal health reasons, and
Whereas brands have been proven to be an effective and economical means of identifying animals, and
Whereas New Mexico and the brand states contend that the data bases they have accumulated for over 100 years are too valuable a resource for the USDA to simply throw away, and should be used for animal health tracking purposes, and
Whereas state agencies, like the New Mexico Livestock Board, have the statutory responsibility to monitor animal health, they simply cannot hand over that responsibility, or authority to anyone, especially to a private legal entity, i.e. privately contracted data collection system, and
Whereas a basic law of economics states, "Do not replace a proven economic source with an unproven one," and
Whereas the proposed NAIS has many unproven practical applications, with an unknown cost to animal producers, which has proven, with past initiatives, to be unworkable, due to the enormous and needless complexity, and
Whereas the proposed NAIS violates the Tenth Amendment, i.e. "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Now, therefore be it resolved that Lincoln County opposes the proposed USDA National Animal Identification System, and calls upon the New Mexixo Governor, State Legislators, and Congressional Delegation to join in opposing implementing the program.
Be it further resolved that Lincoln County requests our Congressional Delegations to ensure that there is Congressional oversight on the proposed NAIS, prior to the implementation, to properly address the concerns of the livestock industries, the independent livestock producers and the recreational livestock owners, and take the necessary legislative action to ensure, that at a minimum, a pilot NAIS program be conducted, prior to full implementation, to resolve the many potential problems now foreseen with the full-scaled NAIS program.