From the February 2010 Idaho Observer:
Is the USDA really scrapping NAIS?
The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) announced on February 5, 2010, that it will revise its animal identification policy and offer a new approach to achieving animal disease traceability. The new Animal Disease Traceability framework is available in Q&A format on their website. DownsizeDC.org provided a summary of the new plan, happily reporting that it is to apply only to animals moving in interstate commerce.
According to the Q&A, criticisms raised during a “listening tour” conducted by the agency expressed concerns about confidentiality, liability, cost, privacy, religion, and the fact that the National Animal ID System (NAIS) benefited only large-scale producers.
DownsizeDC reported that under the new plan:
* animal owners won’t have to file a report every time an animal leaves their property, whereas under NAIS horseback riders would have had to file a report every time they went for a ride;
* there will be no premise registration;
* those who raise animals for personal consumption or to sell in local markets won’t be part of the new system;
The new system promises -
* to focus entirely on animal disease traceability - bogus NAIS justifications such as “terrorism” have been scrapped;
* to “allow for maximum flexibility for states, tribal nations, and producers to work together to find identification solutions that meet their local needs”;
* to encourage low-cost technology alternatives such as old-fashioned branding instead of expensive RFID tags and;
* local and organic farmers will be represented.
The USDA stated in the document that it still needs an adaptable system to help find disease, quickly address it, and minimize harm to producers. It plans to “move forward using a flexible yet coordinated approach that embraces the strengths and expertise of States, Tribal Nations, and producers.”
The USDA spent more than $120 million on NAIS under the Bush Administration, but only 36 percent of producers participated. A large percentage of the 500,000 documented participating producers are turning out to be fraudulently registered, as is the case in the State of Idaho which, according to the 2007 Government Accountability Office Report GAO-07-592, received $1,666,000 for the registration of 96% of its estimated 18,754 farms, even though Idaho’s “NoNAIS” researchers were unable to find ANY farm in Idaho that had signed up for the program. The USDA announced that “the money invested in NAIS will not go to waste. Many elements of the NAIS system can be used in this new animal disease traceability framework… including a strong IT [information technology] infrastructure; an allocator to provide unique location identifiers; and 840 tags.”
The document is long but worth the read. Although we have an apparent victory to celebrate, we cannot let these guys off the hook as the new system takes shape. Write the USDA and get involved in guiding the new program into one that actually supports healthy food.
USDA, Director, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20250-9410
To view the entire revised NAIS plan, go to www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_health
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