If you grow animal or vegetable crops, imagine the following scenarios:
Being subject to searches, seizures and arrests, without a warrant, at any hour of the day or night.
Having all of your records of farm transactions, crop transports, and other farm dealings declared public information (open to special interest groups and even placed on the internet) by a federal court.
Being monitored by federal agencies (or even by special interest groups) via satellite surveillance or radio-frequency ID chips.
Federal forms having to be filed for every truck full of hay you buy, stating among other things the field it came from, the names and whereabouts of the driver and the people who loaded and unloaded it .- Reported by AgClips (Feb 25-Mar 3), “The weekly e-newsletter of the regional offices of The Council of State Governments.”
All this (and more) will be expedited by the new National Animal Identification System (NAIS). It will help the government keep an eye on all growers, animals, and crops used for feed.
What Is “NAIS?”
According to the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Program Aid #1820:
“The NAIS is a national program intended to identify all agricultural animals and track them as they come into contact with, or are intermixed with, animals other than herdmates from their premises of origin.”
This will be done, according to the program’s leaflets and other literature, first by ear tagging-which they admit is not really workable, is unreliable, isn’t applicable to all species and is unacceptable to some ethnic consumers. So when that is shown to be inadequate, they say they will mandate electronic implants, retinal scans, DNA, and similar high-tech methods.
The call for all this seems innocent enough, considering threats like Bird Flu, BSE (“Mad Cow”), and modern terrorism.
Actually, the call was made before much of the current Mad Cow hysteria and Bird Flu sensationalism arose. It came first from corporate interests-among others, ID tag and implant manufacturers. It was seconded by large livestock industry organizations as a way to expand their influence over small and independent growers, who seem to always foil attempts to unify them. Finally, government agencies got behind the NAIS as a way to establish formerly unenforceable regulations.
What Rights Does It Take Away?
The very existence of this program circumvents the right “to petition government for redress of grievances” (1st Amendment). The NAIS standards have already been adopted by several states, though nothing was debated or voted on by Congress.
Its startup procedure is laid out in a way that nullifies all arguments against it before they’re even made. One example of this is the use of the word “Draft” on all standards released. Yet state and local governments are already complying with them-and getting funding for it from USDA-as if they were not merely “draft,” but final standards.
For example, the “NAIS Draft Strategic Plan” [available in PDF file format at this website: http://animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/about/pdf/NAIS_Draft_Strategic_Plan_42505.pdf] is a carefully worded working agenda for both the program and its startup strategy. But when any objection is raised to the often Orwellian provisions in it, the response is always the same: “Well it is only the Draft Plan!” This clever ploy was designed to defuse all opposition without anyone ever having to do anything about the program’s unjustifiable demands.
Even the comment period-before the plan was adopted-was very brief (less than 60 days in 2004). It began without significant announcement anyplace farmers frequent. Not surprisingly, NAIS literature reveals that the corporations that proposed the plan did respond during that period-heavily in favor of NAIS as a mandate, not an option. It was like 2 coyotes and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.
The NAIS Draft Strategic Plan insists it will accommodate “major” corporate and “industry” interests, but has no provision for the security of independent growers, minor breeds, small marketing cooperatives, small meatpackers, etc.:
To qualify for Stage I recognition, the State would have to meet the following standards:
A State animal identification committee composed of representatives of major segments of the farm animal industry is formed and functioning. Membership could include, but not be limited to the following stakeholders:
a. Major producer organizations;
b. Major breed organizations;
c. Major marketing organizations;
d. Major packer organizations;
e. State and Federal animal health agencies and Tribal organizations;
f. Technology providers (tags, readers, integrators);
g. Data service providers; and
h. Transportation (trucking industry).
The plan also says it will not guarantee confidentiality of the sensitive data that is to be demanded from growers:
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 U.S.C. 552 et seq.) creates a presumption towards disclosure of Federal agency records, unless the records fall within one of the exemptions contained in that statute. Information withheld from a FOIA requester under exemption (b)(4) [confidential business information] and (b)(6) [privacy] may be required to be released in the event that a court finds that these exemptions do not apply.
While much of the information collected by the NAIS might qualify for these exemptions, the USDA cannot assure the confidentiality of all the information at the present time. [Nat'l Strategic Plan, Page 15]
A New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee unanimously voted down NAIS because it wants all farmer records 100% disclosed to the public. [See NH govt. web page: www.gencourt.state.nh.us/hcaljourns/calendars/2006/houcal2006_16.html
Your unsuspecting voluntary submission of potentially damning data usually destroys your legal immunity from search and seizure of further self-incriminating data, and against having to testify against yourself.
What Advantages Does NAIS Offer, And Who Benefits Most?
The official promise of benefits to growers is given in APHIS Program Aid #1820, page 5, col. 2:
A single nationwide animal identification system will help secure the health of the national herd. The program will provide animal owners and animal health officials with the infrastructure to improve current disease eradication and control efforts; protect against widespread outbreaks of foreign and domestic animal diseases; and provide infrastructure to address threats from deliberate introduction of disease.
Evidently, the policy envisions that the actual owners of "the national herd," must accommodate animal health officials-without pay for labor or materials-for health risks that may never actually arise in the U.S.
The same document then pretends to say animal owners may obtain additional ID info that would "add value to their animals," but then it says those data will neither be transmitted nor stored by NAIS:
Animal owners can also benefit from the additional animal identification information that would be obtained through the NAIS to improve production efficiencies and add value to their animals. However, the information systems would be completely separate: Proprietary production data will not be transmitted to nor maintained in the NAIS information repositories. [Program Aid #1820, p. 5, col. 2]
In the same Draft Strategic Plan quoted before, authorities further promise similar use of the system, but then qualify it with the term “industry administered programs,” strongly implying that the independent grower does not benefit from NAIS:
The NAIS must allow producers to use NAIS in coordination with production management systems, marketing incentives, etc., allowing for the transition to a “one number-one animal” system for disease control programs and other industry administered programs. [NAIS Draft Strategic Plan, Page 13, par. 3]
Presumably, industry organizations would administer the programs, and thus get access to data said to be “confidential” elsewhere throughout NAIS documents. Here is an example from the same text:
…Industry representatives have, or are actively seeking, legislative and regulatory authority to:
a. Participate in the NAIS;
b. Require the registration of premises where animals reside that are susceptible to known foreign animal diseases or diseases with State or Federal eradication programs; and
c. Require identification of animals that move to a point where they are commingled with other animals. [NAIS Draft Strategic Plan, p. 18, par. 3]
We may conclude from this that the very groups that claim to speak for growers have been seeking rulemaking and shut-down power over them instead.
The above are the only “advantages” put forth in the NAIS documents. They are manifestly “public” benefits that do not offer a livestock owner any specific, personal, tangible or usable advantages.
Sellers of animal ID devices, large livestock corporations, industry “representatives,” and state government officials seem unusually eager to implement these plans, considering the meager benefits promised. Are they counting on some sort of hidden advantages? According to the NAIS (page 7 of the official Draft Strategic Plan), about 89% of these groups want the system mandatory, not voluntary.
Who Will Pay What?
The NAIS Program Aid #1797 says:
Because it is being developed as an industry-government partnership, it is expected that industry and the government will share the cost of the necessary elements. It is USDA’s intent to minimize industry’s share of NAIS’ costs to individual producers as much as possible, but there still may be expenses associated with participation. [Page 14, col. 2]
At the 2006 American Sheep Industry and Nat’l Lamb Feeders Convention in Arizona, one NAIS official admitted publicly that start-up costs alone could run as high as $20/head for every sheep in the nation-more than the total profit margin in many recent years. Some of us are convinced these are very optimistic projections that don’t take grower labor into account, but even that figure would amount to about $120 million for roughly 6 million sheep. There are an estimated 43 million cattle, over 60 million swine, some 2 million goats, and billions of poultry birds. For “their share,” the NAIS states it has spent a total of $18.8 million, and has about $33 million more budgeted, not quite $52 million total. If sheep are anything to gauge by, the cost to all livestock growers would optimistically be around $2.22 billion, not counting labor costs, not counting poultry, and it’s just the start-up. That’s some partnership-the public gets all the benefits, but pays less than one fortieth of the material costs, and none of the labor costs.
When Will It Start?
It already has started.
It can only be altered now by congressional activity, or through the tender mercies of the bureaucracy towards the roughly 70% of operators who work small, independent farms and homesteads.
Your premises are expected to be registered by 2008. The system “allows” states to charge you as much as they want for the privilege of enrolling your farm with NAIS, and for continuing “program costs.”
According to a report in sheep! magazine [Mar/Apr 2006, p.49] Germany and France have launched “spy satellites” so they can sell images in the U.S. One U.S. assistant attorney, Richard Edwards, who has used satellite photos to prosecute farmers for the USDA, was quoted in the story as saying “I was stunned to hear that…I may have to rely on a French satellite to convict an American citizen.”
With Global Positioning System (GPS) requirements in the NAIS rules, any special interest group that gets those coordinates from NAIS may one day be monitoring your farm, searching for any little infraction to put you out of business.
How Long Will It Last?
In a word, the system is slated to last “forever.” There is no sunset provision-no means of scrapping it when it is no longer needed. Our generation may be throwing away our own rights, but we would also be throwing them away for generations yet unborn. They will never know what it was like to live on small self-sustaining farms without constant surveillance and reporting to officials.
This is a major flaw in the system, in the view of many I’ve spoken with on the subject, and ought to be addressed by your congressman. Even “Death Tax relief” is only temporary unless congress votes again to extend it or make it permanent. Surely it would not hurt to have an NAIS provision requiring reauthorization every 5 years, in case the whole thing is a flop.
Who Gets Exempted?
Large operators will not be subjected to the expensive individual ID implants, tags, etc. that small growers must submit to. APHIS Program Aid #1080 says:
In the case of animals that move in groups through the production chain-such as swine and poultry-producers themselves will be able to assign unique identifiers to each lot based on a standard protocol.
At least one state that has adopted the “Draft” rules has suggested a $1000 fine per day per violation (!) for non-compliance, regardless of excuse.
How Will It Be Enforced?
According to the NAIS Draft Strategic Plan:
Ongoing collaboration with market operators, dealers, and service providers will be essential.
NAIS literature provides for veterinarians to snitch on clients and others they observe not complying with rules. The businesses just mentioned, and also farm-animal vets, must register with NAIS, or face being shut down.
NAIS and industry organizations have ignored the interests of small and/or non-industrial operators, probably because these sectors account for so little commercial production. Yet these 2 groups form the majority of stakeholders.
The FDA hay regulations quoted at the beginning of this article would be a practical impossibility were it not for the ability to trace livestock. Once these items are in place, grains and other feeds can be added to the list under the same auspices as the hay. Perhaps all food will come later, whether intended for animals or people.
Additionally, NAIS documents have no provision for protecting farmers. Make sure to discuss this matter often with friends, relatives, coworkers and especially Congressional representatives, mentioning these points:
- This mandate needs financial Support from government to fund grower expenses for material, labor and incidental record-keeping costs.
- NAIS needs clearly-stated Penalties and restitutions for officials who abuse or otherwise endanger grower data.
- NAIS data must not be used against growers to legally override their Immunities to warrantless searches and seizures or self-testimony.
- Industrial farms must bear NAIS burdens in Equality with everyone else-no individual animal ID waivers for large lots.
- NAIS needs a Sunset provision so it must be reauthorized at least every 5 years-in case it’s too burdensome for our children.
Memorize these points using this memory aid: N.A.I.S. = S.P.I.E.S. (Support, Penalties, Immunities, Equality, Sunset). Provisions like these make sense for every mandate forced onto citizens, especially one as potentially harmful as NAIS.