Skip to comments.USDA and Corporate Agribusiness Continue to Push Animal ID Scheme
Posted on 06/22/2011 9:36:41 AM PDT by Sopater
AUSTIN, TX - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expected to issue its new proposed rule for mandatory animal traceability very shortly. While USDA already has traceability requirements as part of existing animal disease control programs, the proposed framework goes much further to require animal tagging and tracing even absent any active disease threat. The framework has raised significant concerns among family farm and ranch advocates, who criticize the agency for failing to provide a coherent, factual explanation for the new programs necessity.
USDA brags about the success of past programs, but has abandoned the principles that made them successful, argued Bill Bullard of R-CALF USA. Past programs were based on sound science and were developed in response to the transmission, treatment, and elimination of specific identified diseases. USDAs new approach is a one-size-fits-all approach that does not specifically aim at the control of livestock diseases.
The USDA has presented its traceability scheme as an animal health program, but it has also reiterated the importance of the export market to the United States in promoting its new plan. The powerful meatpacking lobby has continued to push for such mandated traceability requirements in order to develop international standards for exports. Critics have suggested this is not in the American publics best interest, however, since the U.S. is a net importer of beef and cattle and the profits from the export market go to a small handful of massive meatpacking companies.
Factory farms can easily absorb the added economic burdens, and the meatpacking industry stands to benefit from a marketing standpoint, asserted Judith McGeary, a livestock farmer and executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. However, the extra expenses and labor will fall disproportionately on family farmers and ranchers, accelerating the loss of independent businesses to corporate industrial-scale producers.
(Excerpt) Read more at farmandranchfreedom.org ...
pop an RFID tag on ‘em and be done with it. It’s cheap and easy and it’s required for most pet adoptions so it will work for farm animals too. Plus, cows and pigs aren’t interesting to ACLU so the nonsense privacy fears shouldn’t be an issue.
They have already started instituting it but the full implementation has been delayed.
The first version indicated RFID chips will be used in tagging. Any animals transported on public road will have to go through truck waystations. They cannot be seen by a vet, who also has to log treatment of animals by the tag.
In addition the USDA can at anytime check the animals on any property and this included animals never meant for public consumption. Animals I want to raise for my own family have to be registered as well.
We all ear tag our cattle; that’s not the issue. The burden to comply with the regulatory regime on a per animal basis would be prohibitive to small farmers (and, of course, the disease problems which the ID program is ostensibly designed to alleviate don’t appear in cattle that aren’t fed on concentrated lots).
Family farmers and ranchers already face huge challenges financially. The USDA has not done an analysis of what the NAIS will cost, but it will undoubtedly be significant. The cost of the microchips and RFID tags is just the beginning. Someone has to pay for the computer hardware and software, the personnel for database entry and management, electronic scanners and other equipment, and the labor for the tagging, and the personnel for filing and managing reports. These costs may fall directly on the animal owners, or be imposed indirectly through fees on sales barns and slaughterhouses. We can assume that our cash-strapped federal and state governments will not absorb the bulk of the costs, even though millions of our tax dollars have already been spent. Estimates for similar programs in other countries have ranged from $37/head to $69/head as an average. Given economies of scale, one can assume that the costs per animal for small producers will be much higher.
The NAIS is touted by the USDA and agri-business as a way to make our food supply secure against diseases or terrorism. But the concentration of our food supply in the hands of a few companies makes it vulnerable, as noted in the 2005 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office: the highly concentrated breeding and rearing practices of our livestock industry make it a vulnerable target for terrorists because diseases could spread rapidly and be very difficult to contain. For example, between 80 and 90 percent of grain-fed beef cattle production is concentrated in less than 5 percent of the nations feedlots. Decentralizing and reducing the corporate control of our food supply would increase our security. Yet NAIS was developed by and for large producers, and will only lead to increased corporate control of our nations food, in turn increasing our vulnerability.
Legally, livestock animals are a form of personal property. The NAIS plan refers to a national herd, and the plan as a whole clearly indicates the government's vision: no one will be allowed to own animals or do anything with them without government involvement. We will not even be able to take our animals to shows or simply enjoy the company of other animal owners without reporting to databases.
It is unprecedented for the United States government to conduct large-scale computer-aided surveillance of its citizens simply because they own a common type of property. The only people who have to report movements to the government at this time are sex offenders. Animals do not move themselves the NAIS would require people to effectively report their own movements, whether it is taking animals to a show or selling an animal to a neighbor. Details on our land, our animals, our business affairs, and our movements would all be required to be placed in the hands of private companies, with access given to the government.
Small farms offer an alternative to the inhumane treatment of animals in factory farms. Many people who raise their own animals or buy from small, local producers do so because they object to the industrial-scale production of animals. These people will be forced either to sacrifice their personal privacy to government surveillance or to stop raising animals by humane standards.
Groups such as the Amish and Mennonites raise their own food and use animals in farming and transportation for religious reasons, and at the same time have well-known religious objections to registrations and technology. Other groups believe that the NAIS violates scriptural prohibitions on marking. The NAIS will force these people to violate their religious beliefs.
While the technology companies claim that they can deliver a working system under NAIS, this technology carries many problems and dangers of its own. RFID chips can be reprogrammed or even infected with viruses. Want to place the blame for a sick animal on someone else? Just reprogram the tag. Want to create chaos at a livestock auction? Infect the tags with viruses. Want to steal a horse? Simply destroy the microchip embedded in the horses' neck and insert a counterfeit one of your own. The databases will provide tempting targets to terrorist and hackers. The technological infrastructure for farms, sales barns, slaughterhouses, and show facilities will provide ample opportunities for problems to arise. Australia has instituted electronic tracking of just its cattle a far smaller project than the NAIS and has experienced many problems with the databases.
The NAIS will cost far more than it will deliver. The disease control claims are specious, as they ignore that disease control methods must be designed based on the species and disease involved, and the vectors of transmission. One system, even if it was useful for one species, will not fit all. The numbers of annual reports and the size of the database will dwarf any other database in existence in the world. How can the government expect to coordinate among dozens of state and private databases, or track hundreds of millions of annual reports of tagging or movement of chickens, horses, cattle, etc.? In other countries, costs have multiplied to twelve times the original estimated fees per animal. These costs will have to be paid by animal owners, consumers, and taxpayers. And we will receive no real value in return. Our resources, both government and private, should be spent on actions that will truly improve animal and human health and security.
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