This is a battle that I have been fighting very fiercely in the last few months, and I need every one of you to actively get involved. Most of you have probably never heard of NAIS. But it is an issue that I guarantee will effect each and every one of you in the very near future.
This is not "tinfoil hat" material. It is not a conspiracy theory. It is reality, and it is possibly the most tyrannical, overbearing, and destructive policy our government has come up with in our lifetimes.
This is going to be a long post, so please bear with me and read it all the way through.
I find that many peoples' attention spans are not long enough to digest everything that this subject involves. But it is important.
Last week, here in my county we organized a Town Hall Meeting for the purpose of letting people know about this dangerous program called NAIS. Many people were shocked that they had never heard of it, and all were outraged. The following is from a speech my neighbor gave, and succinctly describes the program and its problems.
Keep in mind that this fight is currently being waged for us here in Texas, and the following is written for the Texas battle. However, every State in the Union will be seeing it shortly.
NATIONAL ANIMAL IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM
The United States Department of Agriculture has adopted a plan that is designed to individually identify and track every livestock animal in the United States. This plan is called the National Animal Identification System or NAIS.
NAIS is a program designed and promoted by the USDA for the stated purpose of providing 48 hour traceback of all livestock animal movements throughout the United States. They justify the need for traceback for the control of disease, protect against bioterrorism, and to enhance international trade of animal products.
Livestock animals include: cattle, bison, sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas, horses, pigs, deer, elk, and poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, guineas, pigeons, pheasants, quail, and turkeys). This includes not only commercial producers of these animals, but every single individual who owns one. If you own a horse for pleasure riding, your horse will be registered. If your grandmother has a chicken in her back yard, this affects her too.
The USDA continues to misrepresent NAIS as a voluntary program. This is not true. The USDA is paying every state in the Union to develop and promote NAIS. Texas Animal Health Commission received $2.2 million dollars in 2005 for this purpose. Each state that has adopted NAIS has made it mandatory with penalties for non-compliance.
In Texas, the penalties for not registering your premise will be $1,000/per day fine and criminal penalties which may include misdemeanor charges and jail time. It should be expected that failure to tag an animal or to file a tracking report will carry the same fines.
A system that carries penalties for not participating is not voluntary.
We have the opportunity to stop this program in Texas before it gets started. I want to talk about how we can do that, but first I will explain exactly what NAIS is, how it cannot fulfill its stated goals, and how it will affect your life.
NAIS implementation is divided into 3 categories:
1. Premises Registration:
Any person who owns property where any of the livestock species live or congregate must list their property with NAIS. In Texas, you will register with the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). You will be required to submit the following information: Name of Entity, Owner’s name, street address, phone number, type of operation, GPS coordinates, species of animals on the property, and detailed driving instructions. Your property will be assigned a Premise ID Number. Your personal information will be in an undetermined database from now on.
While TAHC is offering free enrollment at this point, there will be an annual fee for Premises Registration. TAHC admits its plan to use Premises Registration fees as a means to fund its department as well as contribute to the General Fund. TAHC needs over $8 million a year to maintain current operations. It is reasonable to expect that Texas animal owners will pay that amount or more in Premise Registration fees every year.
2. Animal Identification:
Every animal will be identified with a unique 15 digit AIN. This number will be attached to the animal by a tag or implanted in an RFID chip
, depending on the species. The tag/chip will include: the animal ID number, species, date of birth, age, gender, and breed.
The cost of tags and chips may not be very high, perhaps as little as a few dollars. However, the cost to have a tag attached to a cow, sheep, goat, deer, or elk, or have a chip implanted in a horse, will be more dependent on whether a person has the equipment to the install the tag or chip, the technical or medical ability to do so, and the manpower and equipment to subdue the animal during the process. An ear tag may cost a person from $5 to $50 or more. RFID chips for horses will need to be implanted by a vet; that service could cost anywhere from $40 to $75 or more.
3. Animal Tracking:
Every time any animal is transported from one premise to another, a report must be filed. That report will include: the Animal ID number, the premise ID number of the receiving location, and the date of the movement. When the animal returns to the original premise, a second report is required. A report must also be filed if an animal dies or is slaughtered, if a tag or chip is lost, or if an animal is lost.
Group ID numbers may be allowed for poultry or swine. Cattle will NOT have group IDs. Group numbers will only be allowed for herds that are managed as a group from birth to death and never commingled with other animals.
The tracking reports must be made within 24 hours, which means you must file by computer or send in a written report by overnight service. If you don’t have a computer, add the price of one to what this program will cost you.
No agency, state or federal, has determined what it will cost to file these reports, but one of the greatest expenses of this program is the ongoing data collection. It is reasonable to expect to pay a fee for every report and to pay a fee at every location that is required to check your animal IDs.
We are here tonight because Texas law has authorized TAHC to adopt NAIS in Texas. It is important to understand that the current law “allows” NAIS, but does not require it. TAHC chose July 1, 2006 as the deadline for mandatory participation in the state NAIS program.
Thanks to a handful of people, TAHC felt enough opposition that they backed off and now say the program will become mandatory “sometime in 2007”. In the meantime, they have started a mail campaign designed to convince people to sign up. If you have received one of these in the mail, think hard before you fill out the form and send it back. Once in the system, you’ll never get out.
NAIS was formed, in part, to fill the need to comply with an agreement authored by the OIE, or World Organization for Animal Health
, and signed by the United States. As a member of the OIE, the United States policy, in the event of a disease outbreak, is a “stamping out” or cull and burn process. To quote the General Accounting Office, “Should the USDA officially confirm the presence of a disease, the affected herd and all cattle, sheep, goats, swine, and susceptible wildlife—infected or not—within a minimum 10 kilometer zone around the infected farm would be killed.
” If horses, exotics, or other species are susceptible or potential carriers of the disease they will be killed as well.
In other words every animal within 6.25 miles of a confirmed disease case will immediately be killed—regardless of health status or proximity to the diseased animal or premise. So if you are unlucky enough to live near an outbreak site, your perfectly healthy, non-diseased animals will be killed.
No warrant. No warning. No appeal. No recourse.
This policy specifically excludes quarantine, vaccination, and/or testing as a means to determine the health of any animals within the kill zones. The USDA doesn’t use rapid diagnostic tools in the field due to lack of experience with the tests and lack of trained personnel. Most USDA accredited vets do not have training in Foreign Animal Diseases, therefore are unable to accurately determine the health status of the animals. The only vaccine kept on hand by the USDA is for FMD, and that has to be sent to the UK to be activated—a 3 week process.
Therefore, in order to protect international trade and circumvent their own lack of training and foresight, the USDA has one policy for disease control—wholesale slaughter.
Problems with NAIS:
1. The entire system is based on a reactive approach to disease control. It does not provide any measures for prevention or a systematic approach for eradication of diseases other than kill-off. It does not address the causes of disease. It does not address how diseases are spread. It does not address food safety.
2. USDA states that all data will be secure and confidential. Much of the data will be collected and stored by private companies on systems that will allow access by other systems and the USDA computers via the Internet. Let’s take a quick look at what has happened in the last few months with “secure government data”.
Nine Federal agencies have reported computers with sensitive information have been lost, stolen, or illegally accessed in recent months. For example,
• The Commerce Department has acknowledged the loss of 1,137 laptop computers since 2001, including 246 by the Census Bureau that are known to contain personal data of private citizens.
• May 2006: A computer containing personal information of over 26 million veterans and military personnel was stolen from The Department of Veteran Affairs.
• June 2006: Personal information on 17,000 Medicare beneficiaries was compromised when an insurance company employee accessed the data through a hotel computer then forgot to delete the file.
• July 2006: A US government computer loaded with 133,000 drivers’ and pilots’ records, including names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers was stolen from the Department of Transportation.
• A hacker penetrated several security safeguards in order to access a file containing the names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and security clearances of 1,500 employees of the Energy Department’s Nuclear Weapons. This occurred in September 2005. Neither the Department of Energy official in charge of cyber security nor the affected employees were told until none months later. They say the hacker didn’t access any of our Nuclear Weapons data, but maybe they just haven’t told anyone yet.
And last but not least:
• June 2006: A hacker broke into the USDA computer system and accessed the names, Social Security numbers, and photos of 26,000 employees and contractors.
To quote John Sabo, a member of Homeland Security’s privacy advisory board, “Data is going everywhere. Technology and practices have accelerated in the last decade to the point where, not just security, but privacy obligations have been left in the dust.”
3. The USDA has not completed any kind of study on the cost of NAIS. Based on systems in other countries, we can expect the cost of NAIS data collection to exceed $1 billion per year. USDA has stated that the expense of NAIS will be borne by “the industry”, that’s us, and the states, that’s our tax dollars. The cost for tagging animals may be anywhere from $40 to $70 per head. That’s between $8 and 14 billion dollars paid directly by the animal owners just to tag every animal in America, and that’s not counting 7 billion chickens.
4. Market premiums are touted as a major benefit to producers for NAIS, however, a premium requires a unique characteristic in order to have value. When the system is mandatory and all animals must comply, there is no exclusionary value added to any specimen sold within the United States. The premium for animals under NAIS will be gained by the meat exporters where they compete against the world market which does contain products without traceback. So, the only ones who will get a premium price for their products under NAIS are Cargill, Tyson, Swift, National, and Smithfield when they export to other countries.
On the other hand, a VOLUNTARY system would provide a premium for those producers who choose to participate.
5. USDA claims that NAIS will create confidence in our food chain and therefore provide access to foreign markets. Introduction of an AIS will not change market reaction to the discovery of Mad Cow or FMD. When there is any sign of disease in a national herd the reaction of any food-importing nation is to immediately ban any imports. No system of identification will cushion producers from this market reaction. This was proven in 2003, when in spite of locating and killing the 4 animals affected with Mad Cow, US beef was banned all around the world. Now, 3 years later, nearly all of these markets have reopened to US beef without the benefit of a national animal ID system.
Why? Because, market acceptance of a product is determined by customer satisfaction based on quality, perception, price and food safety. Existence of a tag ID or a lack of, is irrelevant to the end consumer. This is proven by the current explosive demand for US beef in Japan, without benefit of NAIS. In fact, demand for US beef is so high that restaurants and supermarkets are rationing sales to customers.
6. You may have heard about the Species Working Groups. These are groups of industry leaders within each species of animals affected by NAIS. The purpose of these groups is to develop recommendations on how their industry wishes to implement NAIS.
The cattle and equine groups have submitted reports to the USDA. These groups make statements in their reports as though their recommendations have been integrated into NAIS. To date, the USDA has not made any changes in the Draft Plan based on these recommendations nor does the USDA state anywhere in its documents that NAIS will be amended based on these reports.
These Species Working Groups, in fact, have no governmental authority whatsoever to make statements of what will or will not be required by NAIS, so beware of believing any “facts” coming from these groups. Secondly, many of the people assigned to these working groups represent companies such as Digital Angel and Global Vet Link that will make millions when NAIS is enforced. Other parties participating in these working groups are animal associations that are vying for future contracts for database operations.
7. The United States is the only country in the world that uses bioterrorism as a reason for NAIS. But, the system makes us more susceptible to terrorism, not less. I’ve already talked about the impossibility of keeping data secure in a computer system, particularly one that will be accessed by numerous private companies, as well as, government agencies.
But, the real danger is in the technology the USDA has chosen as the standard for RFID identity. Microchips with ISO 11784/85 rating will be used for all species using RFIDs. These chips are designed by the manufacturer to be reprogrammed. This means that not only are they easily hacked into, any person who purchases a legally available transponder can change information to read anything they want.
RFID chips can be erased, changed, cloned, or infected with computer viruses. Any terrorist or crook can walk through a sale barn or a pasture and change or erase the information on every animal there with the wave of his arm. How does this type of system protect our food supply or allow 48 hour traceback of movement?
There have been claims that NAIS will protect animals from theft. Obviously, with reprogrammable chips, that’s a joke. For species with tags, those can easily be removed, which means branding is still the only reliable deterrent to theft.
So, what will NAIS do for us?
Small farms, persons with a few head of livestock, will disappear from the market
because they won’t be able to absorb the cost and compete with corporate producers.
Private ownership rights will be destroyed
. You will no longer have the freedom to handle your livestock without government permission. Your personal property will taxed in order to maintain this massive increase in governmental bureaucracy.
Personal privacy is at extreme risk, given the inability of any agency to protect computerized data. NAIS is, in reality, a large scale surveillance of all citizens who own animals, not unlike surveillance of sexual offenders.
The cost of NAIS has not been determined, but will easily exceed billions of dollars per year, based on the experiences of countries such as Australia and the UK, where actual costs are 9 to 12 times greater than projections.
The USDA has failed to study existing programs around the world to determine if NAIS is a viable system. If they had, they would have discovered that the UK’s system is so inadequate that a government inquiry has questioned the value of continuing the scheme. The UK has 10 million cattle. After six years, with 700 employees they have only been able to identify 8 million cows in a country the size of Colorado.
Australia’s system, adopted July 1, 2005, has proven on 3 counts to be unable to provide traceback in any time frame. The Australian database has records for 38 millions cows, but there are only 27 million cows in the country. No one knows which tag numbers on the database represent an actual living cow. After 5 years of complying with NAIS-like requirements to meet European market demands, 40% of Australia’s beef producers have left the European market due to the difficulties and costs of compliance with the ID program.
The world trade markets and experiences of other countries prove that this type of national AIS is destined to fail. We should not fulfill the definition of insanity by repeating the mistakes of others and expecting different results. The expense of this grand failure will be borne by all Americans in the form of higher taxes and more expensive meat, but the bulk of the cost will be paid by the people who own animals.
The National Animal Identification System does not provide the benefits it claims nor do those stated benefits outweigh costs in terms of money, loss of personal property rights, loss of privacy, and restrictions of the free market.
If we all take action now, we have the opportunity to prevent this gross misuse of government power from becoming the law of the land. On the tables are several documents that will tell you more about NAIS and what you can do to stop it. Petitions can be signed, letters can be written or emailed to politicians at every level of government. Counties, cities, associations, and organizations of any kind can sign resolutions opposing NAIS. You can educate your neighbors, friends, and families and ask them to take a few minutes to add their name to the list of millions who oppose this system.
If we do NOT take action, this will become our new reality. This program is already in motion and it is only by immediate action that we have a chance to stop it before it becomes law.
(end of speech)
Just a few final comments. Think about this real hard. Our country has existed for 230 years as a place where freedom and liberty are our ideals. These are things we cherish. But now, for the first time in our nation's history, our movements will be tracked by our government
. This goes far beyond even what licensed firearms dealers and Class III owners have to do. The government will require registration of premises, RFID chipping of animals, and reports to be filed anytime we move our animals.
As a horse owner myself, this means I have to register my home with the government. I have to put chips in my horses. I have to tell the damn government when I take my horse out for a ride.
This is unacceptable. This is outright tyranny. This is a major step towards a police state. What's next? Chipping our children too? Will the government stop at animals in the name of "fighting bioterrorism"? Don't bet on it. If NAIS is allowed to go forward, you're next.
And bear in mind that this program was never specifically legislated by Congress. It's being sneaked in the back door by the USDA, who is pushing it into action one State at a time where it will not garner national attention.
The driving forces behind it are big business. I strongly encourage everyone to do some research on this subject. Here are a few websites that will help:
Please get involved! This doesn't just affect people who own livestock. This will affect EVERY AMERICAN by destroying our agriculture industry, putting small farmers out of business and making us more reliant on mega corporations (which is the entire point). The prices at the grocery store will skyrocket and the trickle-down effect on our economy will be horrendous.