You can find out more at the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) at the Deliberate blog in a post dating from April of this year. This blog has some interesting information. There is apparently $500 grant available to help you implement this system. A company called Global Animal Management which will provide you with a turnkey package in this arena is also apparently linked part and parcel of the pharmaceuticals industry. Hmmmm. I am leary of the connection. Additionally, the existence of a grant implies that there will some cost to implementation. Probably one I really wouldn't want to bear.
For information about feedlots and the agro-industrial methods, I refer to Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and a book called The Hundred Year Lie. I cannot recall the author at the moment. Both books are available from Amazon or at your local library. I also recommend reading through Joel Salatin's website http://www.polyfacefarms.com/ for a description of sustainable pasture management.
Also check out http://www.nonais.org/ This website contains articles about a host of applications of a Radio Frequency Identification, called RFID, including human implantation, etc. It is hosted by another small farmer in Vermont. Today's post notes that the 2007 Farm Bill has passed the Senate. On the right-hand side of this site there is an extensive list of links related to this issue.
The final word is, of course, from the USDA at www.usda.gov/nais which states that the purpose of the NAIS as follows:
To protect the health of U.S. livestock and poultry and the economic well-being of those industries, we must be able to quickly and effectively trace an animal disease to its source. When a disease outbreak occurs, animal health officials need to know:
- Which animals are involved in a disease outbreak
- Where the infected animals are currently located
- What other animals might have been exposed to the disease
By choosing to participate in NAIS, you will join a national disease response network built to protect your animals, your neighbors, and your economic livelihood against the devastation of a foreign animal disease outbreak.
The main issue I have with this whole setup is that it is reactive. It does nothing to actually address the problems of which disease outbreaks are a symptom. NAIS will not reward good disease-preventive agricultural management practices which are counter to an agrindustrial approach to food production. All NAIS does is help the industrial food system figure out who is responsible and far the quarantine needs to go. This is not a sustainable approach because it does not prevent disease. It seeks to limit the spread of disease. Do they intend to imply that disease is inevitable and unpreventable?
Reading a bit more at usda.gov on who must participate and who doesn't have to, I learned that the following criteria means you do not have to participate.
- Animals that never leave their premises of birth, even if they move from pasture to pasture within that premises
- Animals that never leave their premises other than when they "get out"
- Animals that are only moved directly from their birth premises to custom slaughter
That is good news for the backyard hobby farmer for now. All small family farms must keep up their best management practices without fail. The minute a disease outbreak is traced to a small farm, NAIS will become mandatory for everyone. NAIS does, however, affect small farmers who like to show their animals because the USDA recommends animal identification in the following situation(s)
- Animals that are moved from their premises to locations where they "commingle", or come into contact with, animals from multiple/other premises (Examples include - livestock auctions, feedlots, or fairs)
I think may also include swapping animals to improve herd genetics. Just a thought.
So there you have it. Right now, animal identification is voluntary.
Now onto the Senate Farm Bill which passed recently. It includes the controversial Crop Insurance component which allows farmers to grow crops which are not sustainable or financially viable. For more information, I refer you to the Senate Agriculture Committee website. When I finsh digesting the main points of the Bill, I will be sure to have something to say about it here.