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National Animal Identification System Meeting Draws Crowds…and Criticism in Missouri

By Paul Hamby

Cameron, Missouri – February 16, 2007. Over 70 citizens gathered at a Town Hall Meeting in Cameron Thursday evening to discuss the National Animal ID System, NAIS. Temperatures hovered around zero but that did not keep people from coming out to discuss this important issue. One couple drove over six hours to attend this meeting.

The NAIS is an international program proposed by the USDA to ID all livestock animals in the U.S. and track their movements within 48 hours. The implementation is three phases. Step 1 is to identify all premises in the U.S. that house as little as one livestock unit. Step 2 is to permanently mark all livestock (29 species) with an international ID number. Step 3 is to electronically report, monitor, and track all movements and events such as birth, death and slaughter to the USDA within 24 hours. The Missouri Dept. of Agriculture (MDA), is in Step 1 of the program.

NAIS has come under considerable criticism as small and medium size farmers consider it intrusive, expensive and unconstitutional. Of the attendees of the town hall meeting, only one was in support of the program and more than 70 opposed.

The state legislature has three bills introduced to stop NAIS in Missouri. Fifth district Representative Jim Guest, King City, spoke about the progress of these bills. House bill 747 is the preferred bill. It has wide support including co-sponsor, speaker of the house, Rod Jetton. However the bill has hit a roadblock with the House Ag committee chair, John Quinn, of Chillicothe. Rep. Quinn now wants to change the bill to allow the Missouri Dept. of Ag. to participate in a voluntary version of the unpopular NAIS program.

Many citizens expressed distrust for a voluntary program. The USDA has plans in place to quickly convert a voluntary animal ID program into a mandatory program. Third district State Rep. Jim Whorton of Trenton stated that he believes the USDA is just waiting for another disease outbreak and then they will move quickly to convert the program to mandatory.

Doreen Hannes said that the USDA definition of voluntary is “the program is only voluntary if your animal is born on your farm, dies on your farm, and never leaves or co-mingles with other animals from off your farm.” This eliminates 99% of all animal owners in the U.S. Hannes also explained that while the USDA changed their position in November 2006 from a Mandatory National program, to a program that is voluntary at the national level, that we should be wary of the USDA’s intentions. Case in point: the USDA gave over 14 million dollars to state Departments of Agriculture to implement mandatory programs just a few weeks after declaring a so-called voluntary national program. Michigan and Wisconsin are currently implementing Mandatory NAIS programs. This brought concern from attendees. “If I purchase an animal from Michigan that is already tagged, will I have to register my farm as a premise and track that tagged animal?” Yes, or face fines up to $1,000.

Ray Cunio, President of the Missouri Property Rights Coalition stated that they have worked on House Bill 747 for more than a year and that grassroots volunteers are very frustrated to learn this week that Ag Chair Quinn is holding up progress on this bill.

Bob Parker spoke of his experience as a farmer and real estate salesman. He is concerned about Premise ID’s lowering property values. He wants to know if realtors have to divulge if a property has a premise ID.

Ivan Kanack, a farmer from Maysville, expressed concern that the cost and paperwork burden of this program will put many of our livestock auctions out of business. “Without a market to sell your cattle, you will be out of business.”

An unidentified attendee stated that marking our animals and farms is “marking the beast” as referenced in Revelations in the Bible. He stated he was opposed to this program as it violates his religious rights.

Meeting organizer, Paul Hamby, Maysville, urged attendees to call their state reps and senators to express their opinion on NAIS. It is most important to call Ag Chair John Quinn and tell him to let this bill go through his committee as it was written. You can reach Rep Quinn at 660-646-0004 or 573-751-2917

On a related note, Dan Engemann, assistant to MDA director Fred Ferrel, announced February 15 that the MDA radio ads for voluntary premise registration have ceased. The MDA and the governor’s office had received several complaints about the ads urging Missouri farmers to register their farms in the National Premise database.

For more information: http://NoNAIS.org, www.usda/NAIS, or contact Paul Hamby, 816-632-0602; e-mail: &#104&#100&#115&#64&#99&#99&#112&#46&#99&#111&#109

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