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The Pioneer Press at the very top of the State of California grants permission for this article to be copied and forwarded.
Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California
January 18, 2006Vol. 33, No. 10 Page A1, column 2
Cow Chips: Controversial microchips will ID all livestock
Tracking livestock will be a national “mandatory” program.
By Liz Bowen, Pioneer Press Assistant Editor
USA – High technology may soon be used to track individual livestock and pets, but the “mandatory” aspect of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) animal identification system may be costly in more ways than one.
Agriculture knows there is a problem. With worldwide markets, the ability to trace and back-track the life of an animal can quickly stop the spread of disease. But how can it be done in a cost-effective manner that does not intrude on Constitutional rights of animal owners?
Recently complaints have sprung up regarding a USDA-driven National Animal Identification System dubbed NAIS.
Property rights advocates are screaming the loudest, but California agriculture organizations are also quietly questioning the Draft Strategic Plan that gives July 2006 as the target date for the USDA to issue a proposed rule for requirements.
There are two “mandatory” aspects of the NAIS plan. As a result, all animals will be tracked by a government agency.
First will be the mandatory registration of all premises where livestock are housed. This includes owners of even one cow, horse, pig, goat, lamb, chicken, goose, duck or rabbit. And under the current threat of bird flu epidemic, “premises” could be expanded to include anyone with a parakeet or other bird pets. Fish are also farmed and would need to be under the NAIS.
A seven digit number will be given to each registered “premise” and there will be $10 fee charged the premise owner. The government will then know who you are, where you are and what you have.
Second, all animals will need to receive an identification number. Most livestock will be identified with a 15-digit number, which will create a cost for tagging each animal.
According to Mary Zanoni, Ph.D. who wrote a comprehensive anti-NAIS article in the January issue of “Countryside” magazine, “The form of ID will most likely be a tag or microchip containing a Radio Frequency Identification Device.”
The device will be designed so it can be read from a distance.
Along with the electric identification, USDA said it will allow industry organizations to decide how and when to use retinal scan and DNA identification.
Who will pay for “mandatory” regulations?
All of this adds up to mandatory costs – likely to be paid by the owner of the animals. It will also create another agency and bureaucracy to administer the NAIS, which will be supported by tax dollars?
Currently, it is the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service department of the USDA that has developed the NAIS plan.
The California Cattlemen’s Association issued a comment on the NAIS plan last July, after discussing the pros and cons with its membership and hundreds of ranchers.
“CCA has continually called for a voluntary, market-driven approach” to a national identification system. CCA also said that a NAIS must compliment and be compatible with brand laws enforced by state animal health agencies. Clearly, the state association wants a bottom-up approach, instead of a federal government-down mandatory system.
The California Farm Bureau Federation issued a comment on NAIS last fall. Ria de Grassi said the Farm Bureau supports the concept of an animal ID system, but provided several reasons why the plan was being implemented too fast.
Other groups are more outspoken.
Henry Lamb, a well-known property and individual rights advocate, was quoted on the Jan. 7, 2006 World Net Daily.com website as calling the microchip identification system “The mark of the beast.”
Lamb is concerned that the mandatory aspect as well as the microchip tagging will be a “taking” of private property. In a previous article, Lamb said he wrote about “government controlling the use of land” and now he was writing about “government controlling the use of animals.”
The stated purpose of the NAIS program is to enable government to trace the source of a diseased animal, within 48 hours.
“The effect of the program is the transfer of the control of private property to the government – while forcing the property owner to pay the cost of the transfer,” said Lamb.
The first comment period on the Draft Strategic Plan ended last July.
In July 2006, the USDA is expected to propose the “rule” that will create the requirements for premises registration and animal identification for tracking. Once the “rule” is published in the Federal Register, there will be a limited public comment period.
Depending on the comments and objections, the “final rule” to create the mandatory regulations will be published in the fall of 2007. By January of 2009, animal tracking would become mandatory and include “enforcement” of the reporting of animal premises and movements with the probability of fines for convicted violators.
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