Wednesday, April 12, 2006

terrorist chickens

(This is absolutely insane given the likelyhood that we all will need to become more self-sufficient in the future.)

Synopsis: FDA says all animals must be micro-chipped. This will happen through the creation and pending implementation of a national animal identification system ("NAIS"). This applies to anyone who keeps a cow, a chicken or duck or any other animal kept for business or pleasure. If you don't have time to read the whole alert, at least read the red.

"I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love is not hate -- it's apathy. It's not giving a damn."--Leo Buscaglia

From Mother Earth News

Conflicts with the American Dream

Articles about the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) say the government is planning a mandatory program in which all animal owners eventually will be required to register their land and animals and to insert electronic tracers into all their animals. Eventually, NAIS may require retinal (eye) scans or DNA samples.

Who will pay for this? It will burden small-scale owners — say of a chicken or two or even of a single pigeon — leaving large corporations as the only animal owners. This conflicts with the American dream of self-sufficiency. I know I am not alone in the suspicion that government management would mean mismanagement and waste.

My spouse and I have spent the last several years working hard to save for our own land, our own animals, our own lives. I fear this new infringement on my privacy, liberty and enjoyment of life may well destroy all we have worked so hard to build.

I also am concerned about required registration by way of a “secure” database of private information — no database is secure.

~Marion Parker
Leavenworth, Kansas

Nothing to do with Food Safety

The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) discussed in “Big Brother in the Barnyard” (“Green Gazette,” February/March 2006) is a serious issue with far-reaching ramifications. If it becomes a mandatory USDA program, all livestock owners will have to register their property and animals with the government. Several states already have implemented mandatory programs. Consumers might think that’s good, because it will keep our food safe, but the NAIS has nothing to do with food safety. It is intended to create a database so animal diseases can be traced through the life of the animal. So what’s wrong with that — don’t we need to control diseases like mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE)?

The truth is, the NAIS would work only after a disease was discovered. It is a backwards tracking program, not a preventive program.
Currently, the USDA does postmortem BSE testing on only a very few animals relative to the 35 to 40 million slaughtered in America every year. Since the USDA doesn’t test every cow postmortem, as Japan does, it’s unlikely to find BSE, and no traceback or control can take place. Even worse, we are still eating beef that has never been tested for BSE.

The NAIS won’t work under current USDA standards. Who will pay the price? All of us. The federal government already has allocated about $50 million, final price tag unknown. Anyone who owns even one goat, sheep, cow, horse, etc., will have to buy radio tags or implant chips, so don’t think it will just affect the large factory farms.

~Elaine Kist
Hartsel, Colorado

We share your concerns about this new system. The USDA’s take on NAIS is posted at You can read other perspectives at,,

(search for “terrorist chickens”) and numerous other Web sites. We encourage readers to convey their concerns to the USDA and to their elected representatives. — Mother

April 10, 2006


WAPF Member and Chapter Leader, Judith McGeary (Austin, TX) has created a new non-profit organization, The Farm and Ranch Alliance, to lobby for independent farmers and ranchers on NAIS and other such intrusive programs (part 1 below). She also provides an up-to-date look at NAIS, based on a press conference USDA Secretary Mike Johanns held on Thursday, April 6 (see part 2 below). The good news is that USDA will not propose regulations in July 2006 for NAIS and the USDA extended the timelines for the program. The bad news is that the USDA has simply decentralized the system without significantly changing the requirements

1. The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance: Leading the Fight Against NAIS

The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA), a newly-created nonprofit organization, will lobby on behalf of independent farmers and ranchers. For too long, legislators and agency bureaucrats have heard only from large, corporate producers. Meanwhile, independent producers have been largely unrepresented.

This lack of representation has culminated in the current problem: the creation and pending implementation of a national animal identification system ("NAIS"). NAIS poses a serious threat to all farmers, ranchers, livestock owners, and companion-animal owners, whether they are organic or conventional, small or large, involved with animals for business or for pleasure. Across the country, every person with even one horse, cow, chicken, pig, goat, sheep, exotic animal or virtually any other livestock animal on their premises, will be required to register their homes and property into a database and subject their property and animals to government surveillance.

Each animal would be individually identified, physically tagged (in many cases with radio frequency tags or microchips), and every "event" in the animal's life (including birth, movement to and from premises, and death) reported to the government or to a private industry database that the government has the power to access. The only exception from individual identification and tracking is that large industrial agricultural producers will be able to use just one group number for an entire confinement house of poultry or swine. Small producers, who do not manage their animals in isolated groups, will not qualify for this convenience.

NAIS does not distinguish between large corporate factory farms and the smallest family producer, hobby farmer, or the grandmother with a few laying hens. Many families may be made criminals due to their religious convictions and concerns over privacy and property rights. Small and medium-size farmers and ranchers will be driven out of business, and the consolidation of our food supply into the hands of a few large, multinational corporations will continue. NAIS must be stopped, and FARFA will lead the fight, first in Texas and then at the national level.

Beyond the immediate problem of NAIS, FARFA will continue to serve as the voice of non-corporate agriculture. The issues are many and varied: land use regulations, land valuation issues, condemnation of land for "public purposes," protection of Constitutional rights and liberties, funding for research, regulation of marketing, and many others. Priorities will be based both on threats (such as NAIS) and on recognizing, and even creating, opportunities for independent ranchers and farmers, whose work guarantees America's food supply.

Visit FARFA's website at For more information concerning NAIS or FARFA, contact Judith McGeary at or (512) 243-2706.

2. Preliminary Analysis of USDA's April 6, 2006 Announcement on NAIS

USDA's press conference on April 6 and the documents released the same day provide some very good news. USDA will not propose regulations in July 2006 for NAIS. USDA has also extended the timelines for the program. These are excellent developments. They mean that we have time: time to educate people about this program, time to work with our state agencies, and time to place pressure on our elected officials.

The bad news is that it appears that USDA has simply decentralized the system without significantly changing the requirements. Perhaps USDA recognized that handling NAIS as a nationalized program in a single database was technologically impossible. Perhaps USDA hopes to avoid a direct challenge to NAIS by not adopting regulations that could be challenged in court. Or perhaps USDA hopes that those who are against NAIS will not be able to effectively oppose a system that is scattered through 50 states and multiple private entities. While the reasons are not clear, the result is: NAIS will be implemented by the states and private entities, and USDA will have access to the information through a metadata portal. This is no less burdensome or intrusive on animal-owners than the original plan.

The documents released by USDA include "Strategies for the Implementation of NAIS" ("Strategies") and "Administration of Official Identification Devices with the Animal Identification Number" ("Administration"). These documents have not been published in the Federal Register, unlike the Draft Plan and Draft Strategic Standards from 2005. To review these documents, please see A transcript of the press conference can be found at!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=2006/04/0121.xml.

While the press release and Strategies document repeatedly discussed how NAIS is a "voluntary plan," the USDA has set specific benchmarks. The Strategies states:

USDA will evaluate whether the participation levels are increasing at rates that will achieve full participation by 2009. Based on that analysis, USDA will determine if the market-driven incentives, along with industry "buy-in" for improved animal disease programs, is resulting in adequate participation and growth rates for NAIS to be successful by the established target dates. If participation rates are not adequate, the development of regulations through normal rulemaking procedures will be considered to require participation in certain aspects of the program.

(Strategies, p.3, emphasis added.) There is no definition for "adequate participation" or "growth rates." The benchmarks are set as follows:> January 2007: 25% of premises registered> January 2008: 70% of premises registered > 40% of animals registered> January 2009: 100% of premises registered> 100% of "new" animals identified ("New" is defined as animals born in the last year)> 60% of animals <>

(Strategies, p.3) "These benchmarks are participation levels APHIS believes are necessary for the industry, State, and Federal partnership to successfully achieve the goals and objectives of NAIS." (Strategies, p.3.) Consistent with the goal of 100% participation, the Administration document states: "To have a successful animal disease management program, all producers and affected industry segments will have to participate eventually." (Administration, p.1, emphasis added.)

In other words, the USDA contends that 100% of premises must be registered and that all animals born after January 2008 will have to be individually identified, to meet its goal for January 2009. And if that goal is not met, we can expect there to be federal regulation. Indeed, by setting the intermediate benchmarks, if USDA does not think that there is adequate "growth rates," it may issue proposed regulations even before 2009. USDA still claims (incorrectly), that it has statutory authority to implement a mandatory NAIS if it chooses to. (See Transcript of Tele-News Conference, April 6, 2006; "REPORTER: ... If you wanted to make this program mandatory, is this something you could do through the rulemaking process within USDA, or would you actually need Congress to put out some new legislation? SEC. JOHANNS: We would not. We can do that today. We would not need new legislation.")

One of the confusing things about these documents is that USDA appears to have underestimated the number of premises and animals involved. The Strategies states that USDA estimates that there are 2 million premises and 40 million newborn animals annually. This leaves open the slight possibility that, if USDA reached those numbers, it might choose to ignore the fact that this would not mean 100% participation. But the USDA has not bound itself to that limitation. Rather, the Strategies defines "premises" in essentially the same way as the 2005 Plan: "[Premises that need to be registered by 2009] includes all locations that manage and/or hold livestock and poultry." (Strategies, p.4, emphasis added.)

Moreover, even as it provides these low estimates, the Strategies reiterates that USDA's goal is for 100% of premises and 100% of new animals to be registered. (Strategies, p.4-5.) And the USDA maintains its ability to mandate 100% compliance: "If the marketplace, along with State and Federal identification programs, does not provide adequate incentives for achieving complete participation, USDA may be required to implement regulations." (Strategies, p.3.) Even if USDA were content with those 2 million registrations and 40 million animal identifications, many small and medium size producers will have to be included to reach those numbers, placing the heavy burdens of NAIS on their shoulders.

USDA also appears to be trying to quiet the opposition from the horse and poultry owners. The Strategies focuses on cattle in its specific examples (such as estimates of the number of cattle killed each year) and the Administration document identifies cattle as the priority for the animal identification stage. But neither document defines "animals." Thus, we have to rely on the definitions provided in the published plan from 2005, which would include all livestock, including poultry and horses. Indeed, the Cooperative Agreement that was also released by USDA on April 6 includes the following Purpose statement:

The purpose of this CA [Cooperative Agreement] is to facilitate the deployment of an information technology infrastructure that will enable animal health officials to access animal identification, tracking, and movement data from data sets other than those maintained by the Federal government as necessary to support animal disease control and eradication programs of pests or diseases to protect all livestock, i.e., all farm-raised animals, in the United States. This agreement assists in implementing an interim/development phase to enable private organizations and States with systems that meet minimum requirements to participate in the development of the infrastructure for the timely advancement of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). (emphasis added)

Similarly, USDA appears to be trying to deflect the criticism of the technology aspects of NAIS. Thus, the Administration document provides that non-RFID tags may be used. At the same time, USDA clearly intends to move the entire program towards electronic identification: "At this time, USDA views visual identification tags as a starting point for the identification of cattle to ensure greater participation among all producers." (Administration, p.5, emphasis added.) Once every premises is registered in state and private databases, it would be easy to require the animal owners to move away from this "starting point" to the radio tags and microchips that would profit the technology industry.

There is no mention of abolishing the poultry or equine working groups. Nor is there any change in the composition of the working groups, so that they remain dominated by the large associations (who are potentially candidates for operating the private databases at a profit), large agricultural companies (who want NAIS to improve the export market), and technology companies (whose self-interest is obvious).

Overall, the April 6th announcements present a small victory, while still showing how much work is in front of us. We have gained precious time, and no longer face the imminent threat of regulations. Yet the USDA has not changed the true substance of NAIS. Rather, we face a fight in every state to prevent burdensome and pointless regulations, while still facing the threat of federal regulation if USDA believes that there is insufficient progress.

For more information, contact:
Judith McGeary
Executive Director
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
8308 Sassman Rd
Austin, TX 78747
(512) 243-2706

Bill Sanda
Executive Director
Weston A. Price Foundation


Jay Denari said...

I'm not sure I could imagine a program MORE likely to fail, and in a very expensive, ridiculous manner to boot, than this one. Whoever thought this up is clearly from another planet.

Even if they're right about tracking domestic animal diseases, it does nothing for those disease that criss-cross the boundary between domestic and wild species. We don't need such a system. We're already pretty good at tracking such animals back to their origin when we need to, and there's no point in doing this for the 99% of animals who will never pose a problem.

listens to horses said...

This is scary to me! I feel the need to take some sort of action.

Walter Jeffries said...

NAIS is nasty stuff. Now the USDA is using the word voluntary but they still mean to make it mandatory if they don't get full compliance. Mafia style voluntary. I publish which is a blog that tracks NAIS and other things that are threatening our independence and traditional rights to farm. Drop in to see what's up. There is an email list for notices in the upper right sidebar.