Thursday, August 21, 2014

Animal Tags: From NAIS to 'Traceability'

06/14/2010

The new "animal traceability" system now being discussed across the country wouldn't require fancy computerized tags. Regular old 840 tags will do, according to the USDA. Federal officials are trying to soften the criticism of the old NAIS animal tagging system, but the new scheme is still facing resistance.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture spent $120 million to set up a national identification system for animals and wound up buying nothing but a world of anger.

Only 36 percent of producers participated in the Bush administration’s version of animal ID, called the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). USDA said NAIS was needed to trace diseased animals, but producers found the system the agency proposed to be expensive and intrusive. The opposition to NAIS was overwhelming. (See a list of anti-NAIS web sites here.) 

The USDA even managed to upset urbanites with NAIS. Chicken-raising is now a fad among the hip and urban in places such as Austin (TX) and Saturday morning organic gardening radio shows warned that free-range flocks of city chickens tended by musicians, engineers and software designers would come under government control and require USDA tags.

Under Obama’s new USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, NAIS was withdrawn. At the same time, Congress eliminated most funding for the program.

That didn’t mean an effort to trace animals was dead, however.

In early February, the USDA announced what it called a “new flexible framework for animal disease traceability in the United States.” The system would only apply to animals involved in interstate commerce. And USDA promised to work cooperatively with producers, states and Tribal Nations. 

Oh, and they also changed the name. It was no longer called NAIS, but Animal Disease Traceability.

We went to the meeting in Kansas City on May 11th. Those attending appeared to be a pretty good representation of the center of the nation in attendance. There were people there from Texas up to South Dakota.

We met in a Holiday Inn near the KC sports complex. There were tables set up for the different types of livestock operations — cattle, swine, poultry, sheep, goats. (We didn’t see any representatives of urban chicken flocks.) We listened to speakers — they all had nice PowerPoints — and then broke up into groups, cattle raisers at one table, goats at another, and so on.

USDA is promoting the use of metal tags — “bright tags” — to trace the movement of animals from state to state. The department says that it doesn’t want to meddle in intrastate sales and that it's most interested in cattle. There simply wasn’t much concern voiced in Kansas City about hogs, goats or poultry.

The USDA wants states to adopt a standard numbering system so that cattle could be traced back to a herd of origin within five days. Eventually, they want to get that down to three days.

Unlike NAIS, what the USDA is proposing isn’t particularly high-tech. There is no mention of RFID (radio frequency identification) tags. Instead, producers might be able to use ear tags provided by the USDA and applied under the guidance of a veterinarian.

At the Kansas City meeting, the USDA cited the cost of tracing tuberculosis and BSE (mad-cow disease), as well as maintaining a Brucellosis free status, as justification for the tagging. It was also understood that a growing threat from a reintroduction of foot-and-mouth disease was a consideration in the push to trace animals. (The British had a hard time tracing cattle after a FMD outbreak, we were told.) NAIS was an inspiration to Photoshoppers across rural America. Dozens of these anti-animal tagging posters were spread around the Web.

The USDA appears to be trying to avoid the objections raised to NAIS. One of the most intense arguments against mandatory animal ID under proposed NAIS guidelines was that a privately maintained database outside USDA might not have been secure, which could have allowed unauthorized access by a variety of interests, including meat packers, or animal rights groups (think PETA or the Humane Society) who could then identify individual producers, their exact location, and the numbers and types of livestock they raise. That would give packers an unfair advantage in the marketplace, while activist groups could utilize it for vandalism or other harassment. By sticking to interstate traffic, and by having a system owned entirely by the states and Tribal Nations, the USDA is trying to avoid that problem.

And, of course, the USDA is giving up on the high-cost and high-tech RFID tags in favor of standard ear tags.

The USDA hopes to have a draft rule ready this summer.

Those who opposed NAIS are lining up against the new USDA system. Ag journalist Derry Brownfield wrote:

I’ve been studying the antics of Washington bureaucrats for 50 years and I know this is just another ploy to give farmers and ranchers a feeling of security, when all the while they are in the process of coming back with a much more draconian plan. The name has been changed and descriptive words have been eliminated and replaced with other objectives, but government continues to push towards turning the control of our livestock industry over to the multinational meat packers. The coyotes howl along the trail but the wagons keep rolling along.

R-CALF, the stockgrowers group, has written a letter saying the USDA is “deceptively railroading” the cattle industry with its new animal identification plan. 

R-CALF objects to USDA policies it contends would make it easier for diseased animals to be imported into the U.S.

The cattle raisers argue that USDA’s “real motive is to coerce unsuspecting U.S. livestock producers into assisting the agency in the development of a traceback system that USDA will later use in an attempt to mitigate and defend its reckless actions of continually inviting foreign animal diseases into the United States from disease-affected countries.”

Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns (Secretary of USDA under Bush) said over the weekend that the federal government was trying to impose NAIS by calling it a different name, Roger Bluhm reported in the North Platte Telegraph Critics aren't mollified by the USDA's animal traceability proposal.

"When I was secretary of the USDA, we looked at making NAIS mandatory," Johanns said at the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Midyear Meeting Friday. "However, the more I got out across the country and talked to cattlemen, the more I realized they wanted the choice to do if it benefited them, or the choice not to do it. So, we left it there and didn't make it mandatory. The new system, I believe, is a way to make it mandatory."

Meanwhile, there is support for a NAIS-like system among animal rights groups. The National Association of Farm Animal Welfare, for example, says it prefers animal tags to hot iron brands. 

The USDA has two more meetings scheduled on animal traceability. The first is June 24 in Salt Lake City, Utah. And there will be a meeting July 1 in Fort Worth, Texas. Details on these hearings can be found on the USDA’s “Animal Disease Traceability” page. 

 

Comments

ROFLMAO

If they don't want to mess with it, then leave it alone!!!

The ONLY reason the USDA is "mainly interested in cattle" is because they are so full of what comes out the back end of those bulls.

The disease tracing abilities we already have have not only served for decades, they have kept all of so-called "trigger" diseases virtually at bay.

Of the 5 cases of BSE (Mad Cow) in this country, four were traced back to Canadian cattle. Want to curb that? Then get USDA personnel into Wisconsin to prevent the removal of ear tags on entry so that these cattle can be sold as "American." (Read about this in the post about Emanuel Miller's premise ID case in Wisconsin at http://ppjg.wordpress.com )

BSE has been the poster-child-disease for NAIS and all "traceability" programs forever. Unfortunately for the USDA and their trading partners (under illegal trade agreements fast-tracked through Congress and sold as being mandatory), most people realize that BSE is ONLY communicable through ingestion. That means cow to calf or on the dinner plate. Most of us don't eat brains or spinal columns.... While we do drink milk, not one case was in dairy cattle - all were beef.

There are constantly thousands of cases of TB coming into this country via cattle shipped in from Mexico. WHY? Because once again the USDA is not using the systems already set up to stop it at the border. Yes, cattle can catch TB from wildlife, but why bring in more in the first place? NAFTA. Go figure. (You can read more about that at the USDA's own website - search for the opening testimony of Dr. Max Thornsberry from March of 2009 at the Ag Committee's NAIS hearing. If there is a recording, be sure to listen to it to see just how prominent committee members reacted to being told the TRUTH, and then vote these guys out of office!!)

Foot and Mouth - another poster-child-disease, currently wreaking havoc in Japan, and formerly in Britain and certain other countries, is all but unheard of here. It is indemic, however, it is not deadly. It poses NO human threat whatsoever, if wallets are left out of the equation. Yet - it accounts for the slaughter of entire herds of cattle, as well as other livestock species that can catch it. WHY? Money.

FMD does not kill or permanently injure the animal - in MOST cases (very young and very old animals can die from it). It doesn't affect the meat when these animals are slaughtered. What does it affect? The price one gets for sperm and offspring. That's it.

There are the top three diseases mentioned when talking about animal tracing. They still want "special" tags for interstate movement of animals? What about all the testing programs they've stopped and reduced to nearly nil? What about the quarantines on imported livestock that are only rarely enforced? What about private testing being banned through litigation?

They still haven't fixed the blasted loopholes in COOL - so why more expenses for American farmers? Go to the store, and you'll see multi-country tags on your meat. That isn't what we wanted when consumers demanded COOL. We want to buy American. We can't. Too many remove tags on entry and those that don't have the gaping holes in the labelling rules. Let them fix THAT.

So - just who are they trying to kid with the new marketing and the name change? They must believe the American public is wholly uninformed, uninterested and stupid to boot.

Farmers should pay for tags, consumers should pay more for meat (the cost WILL be passed down - doesn't matter what the industry, higher cost = higher prices), and the USDA gets to look good to a bunch of foreign would-be dictators pushing illegal contracts.

Great.

Without exports, we could feed our country. Because of the constant barrage of "incentives" we are currently feeding the world and importing what we eat. Since when, in anybody's book, does this make sense? Only to those who would have everyone become vegan and their buddies in the only REAL green industry in this country (the money changers). Get the farmer dependent on foreign contracts and you can create all sorts of programs to eat away at his cash - just another way to put it in corporate pockets - how clever.

That, after all is all this is - NAIS with a change of name and tactics - so that they can play ball with WTO and continue their illegal assault on American consumers and the farmers that would LOVE to feed them!!

ELections are coming - time now and in 2012 to be rid of the liars in DC. Tell USDA "NO!" and vote out all incumbents. ALL OF THEM.

GrannySue