The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund has sent a ‘Notice of Intent to Sue’ letter to the USDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture. The threatened legal action calls for immediate suspension of the National Animal Identification System- an effort to electronically track U.S. livestock. NAIS is a USDA-sponsored voluntary system that helps producers and animal health officials respond quickly and effectively to animal disease events in the United States.

According to its Web site, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit "social welfare" organization, which means it must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare. The group seeks legislative changes that are relevant to sustainable farming and direct farm-to-consumer transactions.

“NAIS will do nothing to protect the health of livestock and poultry,” says Taaron Meikle, Legal Defense Fund president. “At a time when food safety and costs are a concern, the USDA has spent over $118 million to promote a program that will burden everyone from pleasure horse owners to ranchers and small farmers to individuals who raise a few chickens or steers on their own land for their own use.”

“We also think there are constitutional issues at stake here,” Meikle noted. “The requirement to use electronic ear tags or RFID chips violates the religious beliefs of some farmers, such as the Amish, and provisions in a memorandum of understanding between the USDA and the MDA could violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution by requiring the state to stop and inspect vehicles carrying livestock without a warrant or probable cause.”

The MDA has implemented the first two stages of NAIS including property registration and animal identification for all cattle and farmers across the state as part of its mandatory bovine tuberculosis disease control program, which is mandated by a grant from the USDA.

Gary Cox, General Counsel for the Fund, says USDA and MDA have exceeded their authority and they have completely failed to follow the proper procedures. We are calling on the agencies to immediately halt implementation of the program or face appropriate action.”

“The NAIS will drive many small farmers out of business,” Meikle said.