Attorneys for the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund has filed suit in the U.S. District Court – District of Columbia to stop USDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture from implementing the National Animal Identification System.
The group is including MDA as a target and because the state has implemented NAIS's first two stages – property registration and animal identification– for all cattle and farmers in Michigan as part of a mandatory bovine tuberculosis disease control program required by a USDA grant.
The suit asks the court to issue an injunction to stop NAIS' implementation at either the state or federal levels by any state or federal agency. If successful, the suit would halt the program nationwide.
“We think that current disease reporting procedures and animal tracking methods provide the kind of information health officials need to respond to animal disease events,” explains Taaron Meikle, FCLDF president.
“At a time when the job of protecting our food safety is woefully under-funded, USDA has spent over $118 million on just the beginning stages of a so-called voluntary program that ultimately seeks to register every horse, chicken, cow, goat, sheep, pig, llama, alpaca or other livestock animal in a national database -- more than 120 million animals. It’s a program that only a bureaucrat could love.” she adds.
NAIS is designed as a uniform program across animal species with goal of 24-hour trace-back to the animal's origin in the event of a national disease or contamination crisis.
Meikle argues that existing programs for diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis and scrapie together with state laws and record keeping by sales barns and livestock shows provide mechanisms to track any disease outbreaks.
Others disagree, including many of the species and producer associations.
The suit charges that USDA has never published rules regarding NAIS, in violation of the Federal Administrative Procedures Act; has never performed an Environmental Impact Statement or an Environmental Assessment as required by the National Environmental Policy Act; is in violation of the Regulatory Flexibility Act that requires USDA to analyze proposed rules for their impact on small entities and local governments; and violates religious freedoms guaranteed by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
At issue, according to Meikle is that NAIS requirements have been woven into existing programs such as Michigan's bovine tuberculosis program. She cites similar actions in Wisconsin, Indiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Colorado.
View a copy of the suit filed against USDA and MDA.