Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to johnc@cfra.org.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

National Animal ID - USDA's Corporate Clanger

The National Animal Identification System (NAIS)
USDA’s Corporate Clanger

by John Crabtree, johnc@cfra.org

After strong opposition from farmers and ranchers, USDA announced in February they will reconsider proposed privatization of portions of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

USDA maintains that the Animal Health Protection Act passed in the 2002 farm bill gives them the authority to develop a national animal identification system. But their attorneys are reconsidering conclusions regarding their authority to require producers to report to a private entity.

There are manifold failings of USDA’s NAIS proposal.

For example:
- privatization invites bias, perhaps even graft and corruption, and could be distorted in favor of meatpackers to the detriment of farmers and ranchers;
- privatization through the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and National Pork Producers Council is clearly no guarantee against such a meatpacker bias;
- no adequate safeguards have been proposed to ensure that NAIS information could not be used by packers to discriminate against small and mid-sized producers;
- financial impacts on producers are inequitable – with much higher per head costs likely for small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers.

Animal identification for the purpose of keeping our food safe has merit. But USDA is proposing a system that is too easily corrupted; discriminatory and injurious to small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers; and too expensive for taxpayers, consumers, and producers.

The aggressive implementation of NAIS while country of origin labeling of beef, pork and lamb (COOL) languishes reflects the likelihood that a more expensive NAIS system will benefit meatpackers while COOL would create potential benefits for farmers, ranchers and consumers.

We have come a long way since President Abraham Lincoln dubbed USDA "the people's department."

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