USDA drops NAIS plan to require every farm animal have a number

Jeff Fobes  | 


Word is spreading on Twitter and on small-farm listserves that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will drop its program to monitor the movement of all livestock, a plan that encountered widespread resistance from farmers, particularly those from small farms, who argued it would bankrupt them.

The New York Times wrote on Feb 5:

Faced with stiff resistance from ranchers and farmers, the Obama administration has decided to scrap a national program intended to help authorities quickly identify and track livestock in the event of an animal disease outbreak.

In abandoning the program, called the National Animal Identification System, officials said they would start over in trying to devise a livestock tracing program that could win widespread support from the industry.

The program had been pushed by large industrial farms. However the American Farm Bureau Federation is seeking to distance itself from the failed program. The Times reports: “It was just overwhelming in the country that people didn’t like it, and I think they took that feedback to heart,” said Mary Kay Thatcher, public policy director of the American Farm Bureau Federation.


Here’s what Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced at a press conference yesterday: “After concluding our listening tour on the National Animal Identification System in 15 cities across the country, receiving thousands of comments from the public and input from States, Tribal Nations, industry groups, and representatives for small and organic farmers, it is apparent that a new strategy for animal disease traceability is needed. I’ve decided to revise the prior policy and offer a new approach to animal disease traceability with changes that respond directly to the feedback we heard.”

Xpress covered the plan when it was introduced in 2006:

The National Animal Identification System, conceived in the wake of the mad cow disease scare, envisions a central database that would enable public officials to trace any animal in the U.S. back to its farm of origin within 48 hours. This, it’s argued, would help keep sick animals out of the food system—or, in the case of a disease outbreak, get a quarantine in place.

The NAIS, a joint project of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and individual states, is voluntary for now. A draft plan, released last April, lays out a tentative time line for phasing in the program. … At present, however, the plan calls for requiring anyone who keeps livestock—from alpacas to cattle to the casual chicken—to register their farm or other property with a unique, seven-digit “premises ID” by 2008. And the following year, producers will have to go further, identifying any animals that might ever leave the property.

“I understand that you’ve got to have a license to have a gun,” said Sherry Williams, who raises nearly 50 dairy goats, including La Manchas, at her Listening Eagle Farm near Marion. “But now they’re telling me I have to have a license to farm? That’s exactly what this is.”