The “Free and Streamlined” National Animal Identification System

The “Free and Streamlined” National Animal Identification System

What is it, Why should you care, What are the State and Federal Governments doing Today and what is happening on the “Resistance Front”

By Sharon Sabo

Website Exclusive • March, 2009

Most of the information contained within this article will come as a shock. NAIS is not dead. The data and information floating about makes it impossible for the average livestock owner to digest the situation. My husband likens it to “trying to drink from a fire hose”"it just is not going to happen.

I personally have expended hundreds of hours slogging through thousands of documents. Working with NAIS activists I have attempted to boil the entire mass down to simple English from the small livestock owners perspective. For the record, I am not an attorney, just a highly dedicated farm wife, dairy goat raiser, and mom. Nothing pisses off a mom more then when you mess with her children’s ability to eat. Nothing.

What is it?

The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is the proposal of the USDA to track, tag and trace 33 species of livestock (referred to as the “National Herd” owned by “Stakeholders”) from birth to slaughter electronically within 48 hours of any “event”.

NAIS is comprised of three components:

  • Premises Registration. Registration of locations that manage livestock or poultry (farms, feedlots, veterinary clinics, and livestock markets) in a system that prevents the assignment of more than one identifier to a given location; (PIN = Premises Identification Number)
  • Animal Identification. Officially identifying animals (either individually or as groups) using an approved method prior to their commingling with animals from other premises; and (AIN = Animal Identification Number)
  • Animal Tracing. Recording animal movements from one premises to another in private and State animal tracking databases (ATDs) using standard data fields and data transfer.

Why should you care?

The following statement is as old and tattered as the copy of the Constitution contained within my purse, however, “If you eat you should fight NAIS”.

The lucky livestock owner works from dawn to dusk, gets up for lambing, calving, kidding, downer critters sometime in the night, grabs a few winks, wakes up and starts all over again. The unlucky one does the same thing with the hours left in the day when they come back from their “off the farm” job. In return one has the pleasure of sustaining their family with home produced meat, dairy, or vegetables from the garden blessed with the the manure they so diligently composted throughout the year. Breaking even is considered good, making a profit near impossible, years with losses are more the reality.

Enter the USDA’s NAIS program.

According to Kansas State University, which was paid nearly a half million dollars to complete a “Benefit-Cost Analysis of the National Animal Identification System” (EXCEL Spreadsheet), it will cost the small cow-calf operation running 100 head $15.90 each to participate in this “Free” program (amortized over a 5 year period). For the backyard grower with one or two steer – the entire cost of the implemented system will fall upon their shoulders. In our case – we would need to invest $4,027 for the first year to comply. A more detailed cost study can be seen in this recent White Paper (PDF) prepared for The U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry hearing on NAIS which was held March 11, 2009.

You might be questioning at this point, “I haven’t seen any mention of Large Producers. Where do they fit in?”.

The answer is they don’t.

Industrial production facilities will be required to have a PIN, but they will be allowed to use “Group Lot ID numbers” to move thousands of animals through at one time. No mandatory AIN for each animal, just one number for the entire lot.

The small livestock owner is being mandated to pay for the “free” program while Agri-Corporations will skate on by. If such a program is so badly needed then why don’t the large business owners pay for it? Slap a few cents on each hundred dollar sale, toss the data into a privately managed database, and regulate themselves.

Why ask my family to pay for their inadequacies and inability to follow the disease programs currently in place? And by funding and running a private tracking system, the Large Producers will be helping the economy by creating new jobs.

What is happening at the State Level?

Due to space constraints, I can only give two examples of State Issues.

Illinois: We have managed to get a Resolution (SR 0127) introduced for 2009. We will be speaking before the Illinois Agricultural Committee March 17, 2009 encouraging them to assert State Sovereignty over this issue.

Wisconsin: Implemented this program 3 years ago. Wisconsin recently began sending out letters to all livestock owners reminding them that if they did not comply within 5 days they were subject to “from $200 – $5,000 fine.”

This conveniently after charging several individuals in the state with non-compliance. An Amish gentleman, Mr. Miller was assisted by his “English” neighbor Mr. Paul Griepentrog in attempting to file court documentation in relation to the charges. Paul was visited several weeks later by individuals who insisted he needed to register his premises.

NAIS is not voluntary"it is mandatory now in 3 states"and will be mandatory everywhere as of the following dates if we do not stand up and speak out.

What is happening at the Federal Level?

HR 1105 (PDF) (yes the Omnibus 2009) ensured that NAIS, which was not a “law” per se, but a directive of the USDA – would be implemented this year.

“Given this investment, coupled with the almost $128,000,000 that Congress has already provided for NAIS, APHIS is expected to make demonstrable progress with effectively implementing the animal identification system. Accordingly, APHIS is directed to meet the following species traceability objectives that are derived from the agency’s final 2008 animal disease traceability business plan:

  • Cattle: By March 1,2009, identify 30 percent of the nation’s cattle population to premises of origin within 48 hours of a disease event.
  • Goats: By October 1,2009, identify 90 percent of goat breeding herds to their birth premises within 48 hours of a disease event.
  • Poultry: By July 1,2009, achieve 98 percent traceability in the commercial poultry industry through the identification of commercial production units in the required radius within 48 hours of a disease event.
  • Sheep: By October 1, 2009, identify 90 percent of sheep breeding flock to their birth premises within 48 hours of a disease event.
  • Swine: By February 1, 2009, achieve 80 percent traceability in the commercial swine industries through the identification of commercial production units in the required radius within 48 hours of a disease event.”


How did this happen?

Don’t the citizens of the United States get a say in what happens to our own livestock on our own farm? Sadly unless there is a massive uprising very soon the answer is no. During the recent 5 hour testimony in the U.S. House only 10 minutes were allocated to opponents of NAIS. The other 4 hours and 37 minutes were spent with those demanding the Mandatory system happen now. How did that happen? The American Public was not invited. Our input was not desired.

If you are now considering this a lost cause, STOP. Since when have we been a Nation of quitters? I am not talking about the Politicians or Governmental Entities – I am talking about YOU. Politicians sway in the breeze like so many silky spider webs catching on opportunistic branches and sticking where not wanted. We, my friends, are like the simple dandelion. Useful from first sprout of spring until our leaves wither from the frost. Impossible to eradicate we number millions against their paltry thousands. We have the numbers.

Now what to do with your voice.

In consideration, perhaps your Legislator has never heard of this program. Provide resource documentation including your cost analysis. Here is a very simple form, provided free of charge, to help you do that.


  1. 1. Do not comply. Review the Coggins, Scrapie, CVI program, Brand renewal forms, State and Local Fair entries, Milk Licenses, Emergency Hay Contract with the States for Premises ID requirements. By signing up you are entering into an undefined legal contract with the Federal Government through State implementation. Would you purchase land without reviewing the legal ramifications?
  2. 2. Contact your local and federal legislator. Explain exactly why this issue will affect you.
  3. 3. Talk to your feed provider, grain distributer, livestock supplier where you purchase your tools – explain to them what NAIS is about. After all, in this economy no business can afford to lose even a small percentage of their customers and if you don’t have critters – who will they supply? Encourage them to speak to their associates. This is the Grassroots movement at its best. Person to person – face to face.
  4. 4. Consider the Breed Registry you belong to. Do they take a stance against NAIS? If not – do they deserve your money?
  5. 5. Contact your NICFA Chapter about what is happening in your state and what you can do together as a team to fight this burdensome program.
  6. 6. Before joining any organization who states they are “fighting against NAIS” review what they have accomplished. Unfortunately there are “Grassroots” organizations that will take advantage of your fear without producing results. R-Calf is one that has a good reputation and has actually spoke up for small livestock owners.



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