Hmmm. This is starting to sound more and more like big brother everyday. National Animal Identification System. It all started out as a way for big AG to keep tabs on the cattle, poultry, swine producers in our country. For export and import, Problem is its turning into a mess involving people like me. I have one horse, 2 goats, one pig and because of this i would be considered in violation of the rules of APHIS and the NAIS if i don't voluntarily sign up for it.
I would be under the same guidelines that a huge farm operation with a million chickens would be under. I would have to register, buy all the necessary machines to track, tattoo, manage my “herd”, and so on. Not to mention, I am now under “big brothers” thumb where they could come in and take my animals, “just in case” because a farm down the road has been quarantined. I don’t even want to think about my “domestic” animals, dogs and cats, or my “exotic” animals, like my macaws or other avians....
I learned about the NAIS from nubiantalk a yahoo group i belong to. This would really put alot of them out of business. But even worse, it would put a strain on them regarding showing, 4-h, sales, slaughter, breeding.
The best i can explain wouldnt be enough, so if interested here are two sites that talk about it much better than i ever could.
so the best i can do is educate, offer my services and pass the word along.
The letter written below really sums it up perfectly. and why small ranchers are getting the shaft on this legislation. Please if you copy this make sure you copy Ms.Zanoni's name and contact information. I believe this letter is important enough to place it here in full context.
Letter from Dr. Mary-Louise Zanoni, PhD, JD, to the APHIS:
P.O. Box 501
Canton, New York 13617
Docket No. 05-015-1
Regulatory Analysis and Development
4700 River Road, Unit 118
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238
Re: Agency Docket Number: 05-015-1
Docket ID: APHIS-2005-0044
Comments on NAIS "Draft Program Standards" and "Draft Strategic Plan"
June 29, 2005
I practice law in St. Lawrence County, a leading dairy-producing region of
New York State. I am also the Executive Director of Farm for Life, a
nonprofit group supporting small-scale and sustainable farmers, and
citizens who raise livestock and crops for their own food. (We refer to
this last category as "home farmers.")
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
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. See Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 565
(2003). These fundamental human rights include decisions about nutrition
and bodily integrity. Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Health, 497
U.S. 261 (1990); Rochin v. California, 342 U.S. 165 (1952). 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 spectre 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
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," Plan, p. 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, 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
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
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. (animalagriculture.org/aboutNIAA/members/
memberdirectory.asp). 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 animalagriculture.org/survey/NAIS.htm as its source. (Id.)
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 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
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
interested "stakeholders" to create the agenda for animal identification.
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,