A Letter in Opposition to the Proposed NAIS (National Animal Identification System) Regulations

“Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of habit.”

Somerset Maugham

The following letter will go out Monday to my United States Congressional Representative, G.K. Butterfield.  Suggested edits are always welcome.  And feel free to plagiarize any or all of this letter to send to your own representative.  As I’ve commented on before (here), the proposed provisions of the NAIS, along with House Resolutions 875 and 759, must be stopped if we are to continue to enjoy the Paleo benefits of locally-grown foodstuffs.  The bottom line is that I know best of all how to properly fuel my body; the last thing I need is a government agency dictating what I can or cannot ingest.  Lets just say that government doesn’t necessarily have a good track record over the last 60 years or so in promoting nutritional health, and leave it at that.

Here’s the letter.  Again, any and all editing suggestions are welcome.

Dear Congressman Butterfield:

I am writing, as both a proponent and as a consumer of locally farmed and ranched food options, to ask that you vehemently oppose the United States Department of Agriculture’s proposed regulations under the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

At first glance, the provisions of NAIS provide for a technologically advanced level of food-borne illness security, whereby farmers tag every head of livestock and poultry in the country, and with the USDA then provided access to the electronic tracking of said livestock and poultry. In the event of a disease outbreak, applicable government agencies would then require notification within 48 hours of (1) which specific animals were involved, (2) where these animals are currently located, and (3) other animals that may have been exposed (due to proximity to the “diseased” animal). In this way, any future livestock/poultry related disease outbreak could be identified, tracked, and sequestered. Reality, though, paints a much different picture.

Under the USDA’s proposed NAIS regulations, the following would be required:

1. Premises Registration: Every person who owns or manages locations where livestock and poultry are handled would be required to register in a government database, or a government-accessible, private database. This includes people who own even one horse, chicken, goat, sheep, cow, pig, deer, or elk.

2. Animal Identification: Every animal would be assigned a unique 15-digit number by the government when said animal is moved from its herd of origin and/or commingled with other animals. Each animal would be required to bear permanent identification in the form of radio frequency identification (RFI) tags or microchips, rather than the less expensive, traditional forms of physical tagging. While the USDA claims that poultry and swine will get “group numbers,” most small farmers and companion-animal owners do not keep animals in ways that would allow exemption from these provisions.

3. Animal Tracking: Owners would be required to report, within 24 hours, every instance of an animal’s being tagged or having lost a tag, every death, slaughter or missing animal, and any and every “commingling” event, including public and private sales, shows, and exhibitions.

Please note that the verbiage and structure of the proposed NAIS regulations allow for large-scale, industrial animal processing operations, due to the nature and organization of these operations, to side-step the single animal identification provision by providing a “group identification number” in lieu of a single-animal identification. Also note that it is the very conditions in which animals are bred and raised in such large-scale, close-confine, industrial operations that not only promote, but propagate the spread of the very diseases that NAIS regulations are ostensibly aimed at preventing. In addition, any proposed animal tracking system is rendered useless in tracking and/or preventing post-slaughter diseases (such as salmonella, for instance), in that (1) said tracking devices are discarded at the time of slaughter (i.e., do not follow the carcass through processing), and (2) the spread of post-slaughter disease is a function of poor slaughter house hygiene and food handling practices – concerns the USDA is supposedly already monitoring.

In short, the proposed provisions of NAIS represent an unprecedented expansion of government bureaucracy into citizens’ private lives, and infringes on property and privacy rights. The program will impose onerous monetary and logistical burdens on small-scale livestock owners, driving many of these family-run operations out of business. Cost estimates for implementation of NAIS range into the hundreds of millions of dollars; a cost burden that will have to be shouldered collectively by the livestock owners themselves, either out-of-pocket or via taxpayer subsidy. And for all this added cost and government intrusion and oversight, the provisions of the NAIS will provide little in the way of animal health, food safety or consumer protection.

I urge you, Congressman Butterfield, to lead Congress in putting a stop to the USDA’s continuing attempts at pushing for implementation of the NAIS, and I ask that you call for Congressional hearings into this issue. Small poultry flocks, livestock herds, and family farms in general are not the source of food born disease, as the animals thereon are not raised in overcrowded conditions, fed substandard feed, or living in their own filth. This explanation is exactly, though, the case with animals raised in industrial, close-confine, animal operations; the same operations exempt from the most onerous and cost-heavy of the proposed NAIS provisions.

Thomas Jefferson championed the small, independent farmer as the backbone of a strong and healthy America. I urge you not to allow these proposed onerous regulations to further dismantle the America that Jefferson envisioned. He who controls the food, Congressman Butterfield, controls the populace. Control of the food supply should rightly remain with the people and with the small, independent farmer and rancher, and not be placed squarely in the hands of government entity or profit-hungry, agri-business.

I look forward, Congressman Butterfield, to your written response.

Please do your part to actively engage your representatives, either via snail-mail, email, or phone.  Let your voice be heard.

In health,

Keith

Ribeyes, Fresh Herb Gremolata, Eggplant Neopolitans, Grilled Nectarines…& a Brush with Fame

“The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.”

Mark Twain

The raw ingredients of something special

The fresh, raw ingredients for a soon-to-be dish of gustatory delight

Medium-rare ribeyes, hot off the grill and topped with fresh herb gremolata, eggplant Neopolitans, and a dessert of grilled nectarines; what could be more Paleo — and so damn good to boot?  Meesus TTP has the recipe write-ups covered here, along with a little story of her brush with Grill It fame and fortune.  For my part, I can report that the meal was absolutely fabulous, and in full-on keeping with my Paleo sensibilities.

Yeah, let me just rush right on back to the normal, healthy, western diet.  Off the top of my little, pointed Paleo head, I can think of just a few places to shove that worthless USDA food pyramid.

And I’d like to close this quickie-post with a public service announcement.  This meal in large part was the end result of the efforts of local, organic farmers.  Please do your part to lobby against pending legislative bills HR 875 and HR 759, the passing of either of which would place undue and prohibitive burdens on these farmers.   See this prior post for more information on this proposed legislation.

In health,

Keith

Support Your Local, Organic Farmer

“We must travel in the direction of our fear.”

John Berryman

772486007_490bdea3b2_optPhoto courtesy of the treyerice photostream.

A special thanks to Chris and Devica Urwick, of Spring Run Market, for first drawing my attention to this very important issue.

Two onerous legislative house bills, HR 875 and HR 759, are, as we speak, floating about the halls of Congress. Both of these proposed bills contain provisions that are potentially ruinous to small, local farmers; the very same family organizations that supply our Farmer’s Markets and co-ops with fresh, organic, locally-grown produce, dairy and grass-fed meat. The bills’ provisions are so onerous, in fact – so prohibitive – as to effectively render the small farmer unable to viably compete in the open marketplace. Our Freedom of food choice is being threatened, here folks, and we all know who would love nothing better than to see the ultimate demise of the family farm, don’t we? Yep, that’s right – big Agri-Business, and their companion, K Street lobbyists.

Please take a little bit of time out of your day – hell, just skip reading this blog for the requisite time if need be (I feel it’s that important) – to familiarize yourself with the issues surrounding these two pieces of legislation.

Here are a couple of great resources to get you started:

First up, The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA). This organization is

“…dedicated to representing non-corporate agriculture and animal owners, from homesteaders to horse owners to full-time ranchers.  FARFA’s work also serves those who are local foods consumers, people who care about protecting our traditional way of life, and other like-minded individuals.”

Food Safety Bills Currently Before Congress

The above-mentioned FARFA provides a good, concise overview, here, of the five food safety bills have been filed in Congress this year (as of March 16th). Each of the five bills includes “traceability” provisions

“… whether for animals, produce, or both.  It’s a confusing situation, because NAIS is not a food safety program.  The NAIS tracking ends at the slaughterhouse, while most foodborne illnesses are due to contamination that occurs at the slaughterhouse, food processing or handling facilities, or at homes and restaurants.  So NAIS provides little or no relevant information in the event of a foodborne illness outbreak.”

Note that of the five bills listed, HR 875 and HR 759 pose the most immediate threat to the viability of local, organic farming.

Also, Carl Lanore, in a recent episode (#277) of Super Human Radio, hosted an enlightening discussion on the provisions of these bills (specifically HR 875 and HR 759) with Judith McGeary, the Executive Director of FARFA, and Peter Kennedy, Vice President of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Included in this discussion are suggestions for what we can do to most effectively influence both the content and ultimate outcome of these bills.

I urge all of you to become informed on this issue and voice your concerns to your elected representatives. The sanctity of our food supply is at stake, and unless we want to live in a world where our only food options originate from, and are solely controlled by, the Agri-Beasts (Monsanto, ConAgra, et al) and their all-powerful K Street lobbyists, we need to rise up in opposition.  We absolutely must make our voices heard on this subject.  If nothing else, contact the Capitol Switchboard, at 202-224-3121 (you don’t even have to know your Representative’s or Senator’s name, they can find that information for you), and let your opinion be known.

Now go out and make some noise.  You better believe that the Agri-Beasts will be pulling out all the stops to see these bills passed.

In Health,

Keith

3/25/09 edit: Something I neglected to mention in my original post was that you can follow any and all action on these bills (or any bill, for that matter) at Open Congress.  From the main site, you can search for the applicable bill number and retrive all the information you need; updates, action, the bill’s status — anything and everything.  Open Congress is a great site for the civic minded individual.