Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Speak Your Piece: Tag EVERY Animal?


Pork and ChopSharon Zecchinelli's hogs, Pork and Chop, would have to be individually tagged.
Photo:Vince Zecchinelli

As my friends and I rode our horses the other day in the Cold Hollow Mountains of Vermont, I tried to savor the moment. Besides hearing the grunt of a moose, whose retreating tracks we saw on the ride back down the mountain trail, there was sign of a big deer alongside a set of canine tracks. I made note of the place where some partridges rose up out of the bush. Here and there fall colors were beginning to appear in the sugar bush.

I sighed, as I always do, thinking about how these days of having the freedom and liberty to own and ride horses with friends could be slipping away due to the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

NAIS is a mandate "“ not a law "“ dreamt up by various federal acronyms: the USDA (United Stated Department of Agriculture); the APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services); and the NIAA (National Institute for Animal Agriculture). The idea of NAIS is to supposedly trace back disease in the "national herd" within 48 hours of its discovery.

(It is worth perusing NIAA's membership list to understand who will benefit from NAIS. In other words, follow the money.)Sharon Zecchinelli

Sharon Zecchinelli and Merry Grace (who would require an ID chip embedded in her neck).
Photo:Vince Zecchinelli

NAIS has three prongs: premises registration, animal identification and animal movement reporting. Here's how these are supposed to work to identify every farm and farm animal in the country:

Premises Registration: Every property that houses even one livestock animal must register to receive a premises ID number. Anybody with a chicken, horse, cow, sheep, goat, bison, llama, alpaca, turkey, duck, or a backyard trout farm will be required to register. (One of the pesky problems is that the premises ID number may remove your clear rights to ownership. When you register your property you become an ill-defined "stakeholder.")

Animal Identification Number (AIN): Numbers are assigned by group, lot or individually. So, if a large Midwest feeder lot has 10,000 beeves on an in/out lot they get one number (AIN). But someone like me, with a flock of laying hens, a couple of pigs or sheep, some meat birds and a horse would have to individually tag each animal. For horses they prefer an RFID tag inserted along the nuchal ligament in the area of the 4th and 5th vertebrae.

Other AIN tags are RFID ear button tags with a 15-digit number starting with 840. The ISO country code for the United States is 840. It is interesting to note that the number 840 is included on all financial instruments, like stocks, checks, and bearable securities like as dollar bills. See? So grows the "National Herd."

Animals that don't need to have AINs are animals that never leave the place of their birth or animals that are moved from their place of birth to slaughter.

Animal Tracing: This final component requires that animal movements be reported to a database owned by private industry or by state agriculture agencies. Under this provision, animal movements need to be reported. (This used to be called Animal Tracking but when the anti-NAIS grassroots protest was heard, USDA began changing terms to make it seem like they were listening.)

The USDA issued its NAIS User's Guide on Thanksgiving Eve 2006 and it was entered into the Federal Register in February 2007. The department began using phrases like "voluntary at the Federal level" and it seemed the USDA had softened its position with regard to small farmers, homesteaders, hobbyists and backyard horse owners. Indeed, before the User's Guide appeared, the original Draft Plan was strict, harsh, uncompromising.

The Zecchenelli FarmThe Zecchenelli Farm in Fall.
Photo:Vince Zecchinelli

The USDA announced, quietly, grant opportunities for fund-starved state agriculture departments. Under these so-called cooperative agreements, states were required to implement measures aimed at ramping up premises registration numbers. Since then the 4-H and FFA have received USDA grant money that essentially forces children into registering their family's land. For example, earlier this month the Colorado State Fair ejected some 4-H junior livestock entries because they hadn't registered the premises of their project animal. One father registered so that his daughter's project pig could compete.

(Meanwhile, the USDA issued a How-To-Handbook this past February. It was meant to be a confidential document for state and federal staff, instructing them how to promote a "voluntary" NAIS. The Handbook demands uniformity and strict adherence to four "key messages" that staff are to present to audiences of farmers when promoting NAIS. The Agriculture Department apparently doesn't believe animal owners are very skilled readers. As described by the USDA, these "key messages"¦are organized into topic categories and supported with concise sentences. They are designed for an audience reading at the sixth grade level." (Handbook, p. 41.)

The How-To-Handbook asks state agriculture agencies to weigh the option of registering properties by "data-dumping" information about property from existing programs into the new animal tracking program. The idea was to determine first if that would be tolerated by landowners. Some states decided to data-dump first and ask questions later by registering premises behind the backs of farmers. Wisconsin and New York have registered Amish property in spite of their objections to the Mark of the Beast as cited in Revelations.Vermont in late September 2007

Vermont, late September, 2007.
Photo:Vince Zecchinelli

USDA continues to march forward with its plans to make NAIS mandatory. (Makes that "voluntary" with a capital M.) In August, the department published Advancing Animal Disease Traceability, a blueprint for how the USDA is going to impose NAIS by requiring "common data standards" (mandatory use of NAIS ID numbers and tracing) in existing disease programs and interstate shipping. This explains why NAIS was stripped from the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law in the House version of the Farm Bill — because with this scheme, they don't need a law, just regulations.

NAIS should alarm everyone. If USDA is allowed to continue with NAIS, small/private farmers, homesteaders, hobbyists will drop their animals like hot potatoes. Some have already, sadly, preferring to give up their animals rather than fight.

If that happens (which is what NIAA hopes will happen) what will be the source of organic manure to feed organic produce? It won't be small producers. And this is the point: NAIS isn't all about farmers. It will impact the consumer. Imagine a world where the only "organics" come from Monsanto-owned farms.


Sharon Zecchinelli, is a retired chef and small homesteader who lives in NW Vermont with her husband, a flock of hens, the occasional freezer lamb or pig, horse and two dogs. She can be reached via email at [email protected]. Her blog is Post Menopausal Ponderings. For more information about NAIS visit NoNais.org or alternately Google up NAIS opposition.


thank you

Sharon, Thank you for summing up so succintly what the USDA is pushing on us. They are exactly like drug pushers with their method of offering "free" registration and downplaying the bad "side affects" of what they are offering. Those of us who know more than a sixth grader also know that there is no such thing as a government program that doesn't try to control the people affected by it. All those regulations spell out job security for the bureaucrats.

nais and santeria

The religious objections of the Amish are often noted as why NAIS will not work, as the Amish cannot be part of something they think goes against their religion and rightly so.... May I bring up the other side of the religious coin but in no way support/agree with this religion just using it for sake of argument....but it is something the USDA will have to deal with (but most likely ignore as there are easier pickins elsewhere, like the rest of us!) There is a voodoo religion called santeria, which is legal in the US; they routinely sacrifice goats and chickens to their gods. Will they chip those chickens and goats, and report when they buy or kill an animal? Many times their rituals take place in city apartments in secret, many are poor and unsanitary and I am sure they do not have handy access to a reader and computer to file a report of a chicken #45678798 just sacrificed in apt 3c, somewhere is a US city slum. They often practice sprinkling the animal blood to bless a place (this happened in NYC when a santerian priest sprinkled chicken blood on a school to bless it!!!!) Talk about ways to spread disease!!!! Will the USDA force them to register their premises in those city apartments, tag and track those animals? ???? There are no exemptions in the NAIS document, but with people who practice voodoo, you want to give them a wide berth!

Ninny State Mandates

Thank you, Sharon! The last thing we need is more government interference in our lives. I don't want subsidies. I don't want the government telling me how or what to raise on our farm, how to live our lives, etc. Less is more and in the case of government, less is still too much.

No Free Lunch

As much as the the USDA touts NAIS as Voluntary at the Federal Level that is the biggest contradiction they can make. As most people know 4-H is a funded program through the Cooperative Extension Services, which is connected to Land -Grant Universities which is connected through the Federal Government. If you belong to 4-H they have to abide by the Rules. Therefore your farm, your property must be registered in order to SHOW. Your livestock will be marked and eventually the reporting of movement will begin. When the States signed up for this program they agreed to follow the legal binding contract to which they signed in order to receive our tax dollars. You will not only be under state rules but under federal rules and regulations. This program will cost you when its all set up and done with. Do not sign up for this program until you have read 'ALL the Documents". When you go into a bank to sign up to puchase a vehicle do you not ask for the fine details? The National Animal Identification System is "NO Different". To read the 'Official documents" and the Cooperative Agreements which the states signed see www.naisinfocentral.net under USDA Docs.

Voluntary with a Capital 'M'

Sharon: Outstanding job of summing up the many twist and turns of NAIS. I hope every person who reads this follows the links you've provided to read for themselves what will be required of all of us and just 'who' benefits from this scheme and why. Karen


the tagging of every farm animal has never been about disease,it is all about govt.control and the pushing of small ranchers and farmers out of business. the cost of tags and the equipment alone will push most animal owners out,and if you dont comply the fines will get you.the usda has 6,ooo,ooo dollars to promote premises registration.the usda has signed cooperative agreements with the FFA,the american angus association,national piork producers council,the national milk producers federation,and the usa i.d. organization .the federal govt. has all ready spent over 100,000,000 of your hard earned tax dollars on this program .you must ask yourself how can a tag in my cattles ear keep disease away?

Thank You

Sharon - VERY well said! Anyone who doubts that NAIS is a problem needs to see the new commercials out from the USDA's partners in both profit and crime... Cargill is now advertising on cable TV how much it does for small farmers by delivery systems where you don't have to buy by the ton - Monsanto is still whining about not being able to patent their pigs and the moratorium on their Round-Up Ready Alfalfa, but their new corn and soy are supposed to save the world while they starve American cattle, horses and other livestock for ethanol production - Tyson is crying over losing profit margins, but claiming to feed the masses decent and healthy food and pay their growers a living wage... These are the companies that NEED and DESERVE NAIS. One can twist the truth only so far - and these three are the brightest stars on that horizon. Thanks again for a beautiful piece! Sue

Stop the NAIS

Thank you for spreading the word about NAIS. Please people write your congresscritters and ask them to stop the NAIS. NAIS will eliminate many small producers, and further concentrate our food supply under the control of a few big agriculture companies. NAIS will increase the costs of food for consumers, and increase the taxpayer costs through increased funding for employing a battalion of USDA chicken and cattle gestapo. NAIS is an infringement on our liberties beyond tolerable, and NAIS is also absolutely worthless at preventing animal diseases, and redundant, as many other identification programs exist. NAIS was not designed for food safety, consumer benefit, or animal health, NAIS was designed to increase profits for big ag.

NAIS & Rural Economies

Great description of a program that will be a disaster for already fragile rural economies. Every rural town, township, county that complains about not being able to attract new business needs to be fighting to stop NAIS in order to preserve the businesses they now have. When the small producers are forced out of business they will take feed stores, ag supply stores, sales barns, veterinarians, hay producers, fence supply stores, county fairs, livestock shows, etc. with them.