Via Hartke is Online
USDA Bets the Farm on Animal ID Program
By David E. Gumpert & William Pentland
“NAIS, ostensibly intended to contain disease outbreaks among livestock, has sparked the most severe political backlash rural America has seen in decades. The controversy stems primarily from the backhanded way the government has imposed a deeply unpopular policy. By introducing NAIS as regulatory changes, the USDA has short-circuited the democratic processes designed to protect the public from government overreaching. Congress has never debated NAIS, and few elected officials have been held accountable for its consequences. The USDA has backed off the original plan to make NAIS mandatory and fully operational by 2009 and now describes the program as “voluntary.” While it may be voluntary on the federal level, the USDA has pushed states to make NAIS mandatory for their local farmers.
“Farmers like us, we don’t want handouts or disaster payments or loans,” said Kim Alexander, who raises livestock in central Texas. “We just want to be left alone to raise clean and healthy food for people who will pay a premium because they know it’s clean, healthy and local and not contaminated with a bunch of poisons.”
A handful of industry stakeholders have cast their shadow over nearly every component of NAIS–past, present and future. A consortium of industry leaders–Cargill Meat Solutions, Monsanto and Schering-Plough, among others–pushed for NAIS for more than a decade and finally won the USDA’s approval shortly after George W. Bush took office in 2001. The consortium, the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA), designed NAIS for the USDA.
Critics contend NAIS will be the death knell for small farmers, some religious minorities and organic agriculture generally in America. Although the program will amplify American agriculture’s influence in global markets, it will give commercial agriculture an unprecedented monopoly on the future of food–a brave new era of synthetic agriculture and genetically engineered animals.
This era is not beyond some remote horizon. It has already begun. On December 19, the leading cloned livestock producers announced a program designed to monitor meat and milk products from cloned animals as they moved through the food chain. NAIS is the “tracking system” the industry will use to commercialize cloned livestock on a mass scale.
This post is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays
Alexander Family Farm
All-natural, grass-finished, and pasture-raised beef, turkeys, chickens, lamb, and eggs. Eggs are available at the farm, Fresh Plus markets, Wheatsville Co-op, and Farm to Market Grocery.
3700 Victorine Ln., Del Valle, Texas, 512/247-4455. www.localharvest.org