Representatives of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund argue that a U.S. House subcommittee hearing held last week on the National Animal Identification System was stacked in favor of groups calling for the mandatory implementation of the program.
“There was virtually no representation for organic and local producers or consumers,” says Pete Kennedy, acting FCLDF president — “the very groups that are most negatively affected by NAIS.”
The hearing by the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, was called to review NAIS, which is USDA’s program to electronically track every livestock animal in the country. Although the program20is currently supposed to be voluntary, the USDA has been actively working to make it a mandatory program, Kennedy argues.
“The subcommittee’s hearing was just another step in that effort,” he says, noting that subcommittee chairman Rep. David Scott of Georgia and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, both favor making the system mandatory. “USDA was given almost unlimited time to further sell the program,” Kennedy adds.
Kennedy points to states where "the voices of small farmers are being heard, the opposition to making NAIS mandatory is growing." Four state legislatures — Arizona, Missouri, Nebraska and Kentucky — have passed anti-NAIS legislation and four others — Texas, Arkansas, Montana, and Utah — are considering such legislation.
“At the federal level, our representatives are listening only to the voices of Big Ag who are interested in expanding their markets for export and are trying to co nvince the public that traceback equals food safety.” says Taaron Meikle, FCLDF board member. “In reality NAIS will do nothing to make our food safer or our animals healthier. The $118 million that USDA has spent so far on NAIS would have been better spent enforcing existing food safety regulations at the slaughterhouse.”
FCLDF filed suit last year in the District of Columbia District Court against USDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture to stop the mandatory implementation of NAIS. MDA has implemented the first two stages — premises registration and animal identification — part of a state-wide bovine tuberculosis disease control program.
FCLDF's suit wants 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.
Source: The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund