Letter from Langdon: The Cost of Animal Identification

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Farmers want to know if a costly identification system for livestock ill pay off for them.


NAIS (National Animal Identification System) as a way for ag producers to gain better prices. According to the state department of agriculture back then, the world would beat down the doors to buy from producers who participated.

They even sent out a mailing to every farm in the state, inviting us to sign up…right away! I read mine very carefully, and just as carefully I filed it away with the rest of that day’s mail consisting of credit card and insurance solicitations. 

Keep in mind that NASS (National Agricultural Statistics Service) and USDA already conduct a census of ag producers each year. They keep track of what we grow, how much we have, and the number of acres used to produce it. All that information is made public to anyone who wants it.

Our business is already an open book. As far as farm locations are concerned, USDA obviously has what they say they need or they couldn’t mail us the forms.

So if USDA has the basic information, what’s the big deal about animal and premise ID?

For one thing a central database is lacking, something that unites all the information under one roof. APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) would join the ranks of FSA and NASS by creating the ultimate farm data base, something that would rival in invasiveness the information grain farmers already supply to FSA, because participation in USDA support programs requires full disclosure.

So far, livestock producers have dodged that bullet because in the past USDA has only subsidized them indirectly with cheap grain generated by the farm program.

And I don’t even want to mention the poor record APHIS and FDA already share when it comes to food safety. If they can’t find bacteria in a packing plant, what difference will a radio frequency tag on a live chicken make?

Promoters have had a hard time selling it to rank and file farmers and ranchers who don’t want the burden of a central data base, supposedly locked away, that could become an open book to the big food corporations most of us rely on to buy our animal produce at a fair price.

Notice the emphasis on FAIR.