Monday, May 17, 2010

NAIS Threat Not Gone

Please read NAIS Not Dead? and Ding Dong NAIS Is (Not) Dead!

When I first heard that the National NAIS was defeated a few months back, I breathed a sigh of relief.  NAIS has got to be the prime example of a government program designed to destroy the small, local farm in favor of large, factory farms. 

It is also a great example of people taking part in the political process and saying "NO!" to Big Government, Big Agribusiness, and their unholy union.  David bested Goliath, and NAIS got squashed.  Unfortunately, NAIS is like one of those horror movie villains- you think they are dead, but they always manage to survive and come back for the sequel.  In this case, NAIS is being resurrected under a "new" program that looks remarkably like the old one, just with a more updated look.

Part of the NAIS diguise, ehem... makeover, is a brand new name.  NAIS will now be known as the Federal Animal Disease Traceability System.   Under the old NAIS, participates registered their operation as "premises".  Under the new system, they are called "unique locations".  The new system will still use the same ID tags.  Again, animals are tracked from birth to death, with every life event in between requiring forms to be submitted.  And, it still does nothing to prevent disease.

The new program will run pretty much the way NAIS was intended to operate, but with one big difference: participation in the program would be mandatory for anyone who sells livestock across state lines.  NAIS was voluntary (though it probably would have become mandatory).  That may not sound like a big deal, except that most auctions and livestock sales include out-of-state buyers.  This makes participation in the program mandatory for just about everyone.  The problem here, again, is that the program raises expenses for the small producer.  Even the individual who keeps a few laying hens will pay higher prices for chicks, due to the added expense the supplier is forced to bear.

At the same time, big breaks in fees are given to the large factory farms.  They would only have to have a single cow tagged to represent the entire lot.  The small farmer must tag and pay the fee for each individual animal.  This would put a lot of small producers out of business.  Why would the USDA do such a thing?  To help the factory farms sell their meat in the international market.

Here's the part that's so infuriating.  Factory farms treat their animals in the most inhumane, disgusting, filthy manner.  Their animals live in pens so small they can barely move, sometimes sharing pens with other animals who become sick and die in the same shared, small space.  These pens are often filled with the animal's feces.  Paying someone to come in and clean these undersized pens would result in higher labor costs, and it's much cheaper just to pump high doses of antibiotics into the animal, which remain in the flesh and are consumed by humans. (Anyone wondering why we are so resist to antibiotics?)  This doesn't even scratch the surface on the animal abuse that is typical of factory farms. 

Stressful, filthy living conditions, however, lead to disease.  In order to make US beef marketable to international markets requiring disease controls, NAIS was created.  It did not, however, make our beef any safer, but gave the illusion of safety because it was part of a "program".   So, NAIS provided a false sense of security in order to sell meat abroad, but would have financially devastated small, family farms which produce a superior product in cleaner, more humane environment if it had been mandatory. 

Let's just go and reward producers for treating their animals like the feces they are forced to live in, while punishing a small, traditional farmer who treats his animals well and gets a superior product for his or her efforts.  Brilliant. 

This program was defeated once before.  It can be done again.  If you agree with me that this is a program that should never come to pass, then I urge you to contact your elected representatives.  Find out where they stand on the issue, and then let them know that you are an informed constituent, and let them know how YOU feel about this new program. 

One more thought... I'd like to see them force us to tag the thousands upon thousands of honeybees in our beeyard.  Good luck!

Live better, a little every day.

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