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NATIONAL ANIMAL IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM: NPGA’S POSITION
by Ray Hoyt, NPGA President

The U.S. Department of Agriculture officially recognized this program on 11/8/04. The following livestock species are affected: camelids (llamas & alpacas), cattle & bison, cervids (deer & elk), equine, goats, poultry, sheep and swine. USDA said then, and continues to say, that NAIS is a voluntary program with respect to livestock owners and breeders. It is clear, however, that it is USDA’s ultimate goal to make compliance with NAIS mandatory. The system comprises three key components, to be sequentially established over time:

  • Premises Identification

  • Animal Identification

  • Animal Tracking from Premises to Premises

Phase one, Premises Identification, is being done through state veterinarians, who have been trained by USDA in a standardized registration system. The Premises Identification system registers premises with a seven-character number which has been integrated into a nationwide database.

Implementation of the second and third phases of NAIS is not going as smoothly as USDA would like. Regarding phase two, Breed organizations like NPGA that already have identification systems in use are very resistant to the prospects of having the government dictate a change to those systems. Governmental suggestions to standardize the methods (tattoos, eartags, retinal scans, and/or microchipping for example) or the composition of the ID system (number and type of characters, inclusion of a state and/or Premise prefix, etc.) are being met with major opposition. Since phase three is wholly dependent on phase two, discussions on this phase have not begun with any degree of specificity.

Many NAIS opponents claim that NAIS represents an unnecessarily broad intrusion by the government into the right of livestock owners to breed, raise and sell animals as they see fit. They claim that the government has failed to meet its burden that such intrusion is warranted by an overwhelming need to protect the health and safety of the public.

There are a number of groups that have become highly visible in their reaction to NAIS. Websites have sprung up, press releases have been made, lawsuits have been filed, and politicians have been heard from on both sides of the issues. Largely with the assistance of some of our members, I have collected much of this information in an effort to stay informed.

For the past five years or so, I have been attempting to keep abreast of what is happening with NAIS, how USDA is reacting to major resistance to its implementation, how other breed organizations are dealing with NAIS, and actions at the state level in either rejecting or embracing NAIS.

Your Board of Directors has repeatedly taken the position that NPGA’s interests and the interests of its members are better served by staying informed on the issues rather than dictating a firm position, pro or con, on behalf of our members, some of whom may disagree with such Board mandate. At every Board meeting since NAIS came into existence, a report to the Board has been made outlining the issues as they unfold. The Board’s continued decision to supply information to its membership so they can make their own choices remains its official policy.

As always, if any of the membership has any questions about NAIS or concerns about how NPGA as an organization is treating NAIS, please contact me.

 
 

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