Fighting to Stop the National Animal Identification System (NAIS)
April 18, 2008
Kentucky Strikes a Blow for Independent Farmers
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In an overwhelming statement in support of farmers and against creeping federal control of all food production, Kentucky became the third state to pass a law making participation in a national animal identification system (NAIS) voluntary. House Bill 495 passed 88-6 in the state’s House and 37-0 in its Senate and was promptly signed by Kentucky’s governor.
“This is a great victory for all Kentuckians,” states Judith McGeary, a national anti-NAIS activist and president of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. “Kentucky is the first state to not only make NAIS participation voluntary, but also enact a provision protecting its citizens from being coerced into NAIS. Many states have been using unfair tactics to force farmers to register their farms and animals. Kentucky’s law forbids discrimination against people who choose not to participate in NAIS.”
Under NAIS, a program created by the United States Department of Agriculture, and being implemented by each state individually, anyone who has even one of 29 species would register his home, farm, apartment, or other place where the animal is held. The next step calls for individually tagging each animal, with a number that is registered with the state. The third step would require animal owners to report every time they take their animals somewhere the animals will be in contact with animals from other properties. Chief on the list of species are equines (mules, donkeys, horses), poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, guinea hens, etc.), bovines (dairy and meat cattle, oxen), sheep, goats, pigs, alpacas, llamas, elk, bison, and deer. Federal agencies, such as USDA, will have access to the data. USDA describes the program as “voluntary at the federal level” but has funded mandatory state programs. Kentucky’s new law protects against a mandatory state program, unless the federal government meets statutory rule-making requirements. USDA has to date not embarked on such rule-making for NAIS. Kentuckians can now turn their sights on Congress, to ensure NAIS is voluntary.
NAIS will impact everyone from pet owners to full-time farmers, hobby farmers, homesteaders, and horse owners, to consumers of local foods. “The effort to stop NAIS in Kentucky was a great example of the breadth of people involved. We worked together with organizations such as the Kentucky Community Farm Alliance and the Weston A. Price Foundation, along with many concerned individuals, to explain to the Kentucky legislators why this bill was so critical to so many people,” explains McGeary.
NAIS has outraged farmers and other citizens across the country. Various states have used coercion to force farmers to register their farms (called “premises” under the program), making registration a prerequisite to obtaining state farm assistance such as obtaining hay in drought stricken areas. In Colorado and Illinois, 4-H youth are required to have NAIS-compliant registrations for the places where they keep their animals – and Colorado children were told to register the farms, whether they belonged to their parents, or friends or neighbors. In many states, farmers who participate in long-standing disease control programs found out their states took the data from those programs and dumped it into NAIS databases without the farmers’ knowledge, and the states reported those registrations as “voluntary.” In New York, horse owners found out an annual test resulted in their farms being listed in NAIS, when they received a letter congratulating them for registering. New Yorkers who have asked to be released from NAIS received letters from the state asking them if they were sure about what they were doing.
Randy Givens, a member of the Steering Committee of the Liberty Ark Coalition, formed to fight NAIS, says, “We are all excited about Kentucky’s victory. Arizona was first, and then Nebraska enacted its statute, and now these Kentucky activists have raised the bar for everyone fighting NAIS. They’ve shown us what’s possible.”
To learn more about NAIS, and the fight against it, go to libertyark.net or www.farmandranchfreedom.org.
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