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March 1, 2007

The following article was written and copyrighted by Mary Zanoni, PhD (Cornell), JD (Yale), Founder and Executive Director, Farm for Life, P.O. Box 501, Canton, NY 13617, (315) 265-2800. It is being posted on NPGA’s website with the written permission of the author:

Monday, February 12, 2007

“Joe Cattleman” Scores Decisively in Round One Against the NCBA: In a Rare Example of a True “Free Market,” Nobody is Buying the Ridiculous Government/Corporate Scheme for Tracking Everything that Walks, Flies, Swims or Crawls

(But the Fight is Far from Over - Get Ready for Round Two)

by Mary Zanoni

This morning, several people have sent me the article that appeared on CattleNetwork late last Friday afternoon, “Animal Tracking System Sidelined for Lack of Support,” http://www.cattlenetwork.com/content.asp?contentid=104957. (Kathryn Russell of Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association [VICFA, www.vicfa.net] was the first to draw attention to the article, with Sharon Zecchinelli and Doreen Hannes helping to distribute it to the NAIS opposition community.) The article, by Les Aldrich of the Dow Jones Newswire, reports that the U.S. Animal Identification Organization (USAIO) has been “suspended for lack of interest and financing.” The USAIO suspended its operations on January 31, 2007, pretty much because “no producer data was ever entered into the system” and “it became obsolete before it ever got started.”

To understand the significance of this development, let’s briefly review the history of the USAIO. One of the chief drivers of the development of the dream/nightmare (depending on your point of view) of a National Animal Identification System (NAIS) has always been the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, because the NCBA coveted the vast wealth to be gained if they could secure a monopoly over the “animal tracking database” (ATD). The ATD was the NAISty beast which, if the NCBA and USDA had had their way, every animal owner in the U.S. would have had to feed with reporting fees every time any “livestock” were moved from place to place, sold, bought, died, birthed, what-have-you. (In the original plan, “livestock” included everything down to the level of farmed fish, shrimp, and clams - no kidding, it was all in the USDA’s Draft Strategic Plan for NAIS, published in April 2006.)

Now, the NCBA would have loved to have the ATD all to its own self, but whoops, there were certain obvious legal anticompetitive problems with that, plus it was likely to cause a wholesale revolt of livestock owners (particularly cattlemen), and even some pretty hefty rival livestock corporate interests were not happy with it, since they got no pieces of the ATD pie.

Thus, the NCBA morphed its anticompetitive animal tracking plot into the so-called “nonprofit” USAIO by early 2006. Then the so-called “nonprofit” USAIO “partnered” with America’s Monopolists-in-Chief at - big surprise - Microsoft - to launch a so-called “industry-led, multispecies animal tracking database” with much fanfare in a press release on March 1, 2006.


The problem, however, was similar to that which Microsoft is now having with its Vista operating system - nobody wants to buy. Animal-owner resistance prevented the USDA from imposing “mandatory” NAIS on its preferred schedule, and the agency now is saying it only wants a “voluntary” NAIS. Legitimate “volunteers” have been few and far between, and the program has provoked outrage because the USDA has egged-on many states to fulfill their “premises ID” quotas for USDA grant funding by data-theft from pre-existing state livestock programs. In other words, many states have placed animal-owner records into the USDA premises information database without the prior knowledge or consent of the animal owners. These animal owners do not even suspect that they have been co-opted into the so-called “voluntary” premises registration system until they receive a letter from their state agriculture department “congratulating” them on their new premises ID number. Since many of these “forced volunteers” are sworn enemies of NAIS, their bitter reactions to forced participation - while totally justified - have not been pretty, and have not gone unnoticed by some of their elected representatives.

So, in a marked contrast to the hoopla surrounding the announcement of the USAIO’s animal-tracking partnership in March 2006, now, less than a year later, the USAIO quietly slinks over the horizon, its Jan. 31, 2007 suspension of operations not reported in the livestock media until over a week later.

But, as the antiNAIS movement has seen so clearly in the past, this won’t be the end of it. While the USDA has been murmuring “voluntary, voluntary,” states such as Kentucky and Washington have recently launched “sneak attacks” to try to impose NAIS against the will of farmers and animal owners through minimally-publicized rulemaking proceedings. Livestock owners may not yet be safe from a sneak attack by the USDA itself, in the form of a possible “interim rule” that could impose NAIS with no prior opportunity for comment or objection. (See http://nonais.org/index.php/2007/01/22/bad-premonition/ for more on the possibility of an “interim rule.”) State-level affiliates of the Farm Bureau and the National Cattlemen - and their legions of professional lobbyists - quickly have mounted smear campaigns against farmer-supported “no NAIS” legislation in many states.

But after decades of farmers and ranchers getting the boot-heel from the NCBA and its industrial-agriculture friends, winning Round One is at least a start.

* * * * *

Copyright 2007 by Mary Zanoni. The above article may be distributed solely for personal and non-commercial use without prior permission from the author, so long as proper credit is given, the article is reproduced without changes or deletions, and this copyright notice is displayed. Any other distribution or republication requires the author’s permission in writing and requests for such permission should be directed to the author at 315-386-3199 or mlz@slic.com.

In granting permission for NPGA to post this article on its website, Mary Zanoni stated: “Yes, by all means, you may reprint my piece. It would be good, however, to emphasize that the USDA and the states continue to move forward with more and more involved and complex programs for animal and farm tracking.”

Ray Hoyt
NPGA President
NAIS Coordinator
NPGA HER Committee Member



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