The National Animal
Issue #98 • March/April, 2006
You’ve always got to be on your toes these days to keep the government from making a grab for ever more power over our personal lives. And very often the power grab goes hand-in-hand with a deal the government has made with big business. They always claim it’s about protecting “us.” Ha, Ha! What a joke!
The latest grab for power in order to protect “us” is called the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). It’s a system proposed by agribusiness and embraced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to track livestock in this country. It’s supposed to help keep terrorists from intentionally infecting our food supply, and also protect us from things like avian flu, mad cow disease, and whatever else they can think of as an excuse to implement it by the target date of January, 2009—or earlier if they can continue on the fast track they are on now.
Here’s how NAIS will operate. On the individual level, your home (including your name, address, telephone number, and Global Positioning Satellite coordinates) will have to be registered with the Government. Your livestock—every fish, fowl, cow, hog, sheep, pigeon, etc.—will have to be registered. Your animals may have to be electronically tagged so they can be tracked by satellite. They may also have to have blood drawn so they can be identified by their DNA. They may even have to have retinal scans. Agribusinesses, promoters of the system, will have it easier than the individual: they’ll register their stock in lots, i.e, one entry covers a herd.
Who pays for all of this? The family raising a pig, cow, or flock of laying hens for its own consumption must absorb the cost of compliance themselves. Agribusiness gets to pass their costs on to the consumer.
The NAIS is also meant to increase exports, something important to agribusiness, but not so important to small farmers, homesteaders, or people like you and me. Will it actually improve agribusiness exports? Probably not. What will do that will be examining animals as they are slaughtered and going to market, like the Europeans and Japanese already do with a system they have perfected. It protects the public. If protection of the public is required, the European and Japanese systems have already shown us how to do it. The NAIS is just a power grab by big Government.
Government bureaucrats like to portray themselves as capable organizations that can ride to the rescue of ordinary folks like us in an emergency, like FEMA did—or, actually, didn’t—during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The “national herd” concept the USDA now embraces does not bode well for those who like freedom.
The NAIS will also turn your veterinarian into a spy. He will be required to report you if you are not in compliance. And what if you do fail to comply? Enforcing compliance is one of the things not spelled out in detail yet. It’s a bitter enough pill—the intrusions into our lives, the cost, the corporate welfare—without discussing penalties that will make it more difficult for average Americans to swallow. But expect enforcement to be the way bureaucrats always enforce laws: with threats of hefty fines, imprisonment, and seizure of your property. And, if cited, don’t expect to be brought before a jury of your neighbors. Your freedoms will become subject to the discretion of bureaucratic tribunals, similar to the IRS courts, the DMV, zoning boards, etc.
Who actually stands to benefit from this program? Not the public. It will be agribusinesses and the high-tech companies that will provide the tracking and identification systems that will be mandated. I’m not antibusiness, but I am anti-business-in-bed-with-government. Businesses, whether they’re multibillion dollar corporations or a mom-and-pop operation with a farm or laundromat, should prosper—or die—based on their ability to provide a product or service the public wants. They should not prosper because they’ve received government handouts or favors. NAIS is out and out welfare of the worst kind. It is a program to benefit large corporations and to expand bureaucratic power.
Who loses with NAIS? The consumer, the small farmer, the family who wants to raise a few organic hens for eggs, even the 4-H kids—yeah, even 4-H’ers will have to comply. And by increasing the burden on the small producer, the NAIS will help destroy the small producer’s market, even when that market is a single family.
NAIS is not a program that was proposed by consumer groups or voters. It wasn’t even run through Congress. It is, pure and simple, a naked attempt to profit and increase power on the part of both corporations and bureaucrats at the expense of small farmers and the public. It will be run by agribusiness and it will be agribusiness who makes the decisions as to what happens to small farmers and the consumers. You will not have a say.
The USDA, agribusinesses, and the tech companies involved in creating the hardware and software for this tracking system are trying to move fast on this. For them, the windfalls will be enormous, whether it’s expansion of bureaucratic power or big bucks. They have much to gain by forcing it through. The small farmer, the rural family, and the consumer have much to lose.
There’s still time to stop this. Call, e-mail, or write your congressman and governor to protest it. You can usually find their addresses and phone numbers in your local newspaper. Or on the Web you can go to: www.house.gov/, www.senate.gov/, or www.lib.umich.edu/govdocs/govemail.html.
Let’s not let Government cancel our individual freedoms with phony programs like NAIS.