“Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of habit.”

Somerset Maugham

The following letter will go out Monday to my United States Congressional Representative, G.K. Butterfield.  Suggested edits are always welcome.  And feel free to plagiarize any or all of this letter to send to your own representative.  As I’ve commented on before (here), the proposed provisions of the NAIS, along with House Resolutions 875 and 759, must be stopped if we are to continue to enjoy the Paleo benefits of locally-grown foodstuffs.  The bottom line is that I know best of all how to properly fuel my body; the last thing I need is a government agency dictating what I can or cannot ingest.  Lets just say that government doesn’t necessarily have a good track record over the last 60 years or so in promoting nutritional health, and leave it at that.

Here’s the letter.  Again, any and all editing suggestions are welcome.

Dear Congressman Butterfield:

I am writing, as both a proponent and as a consumer of locally farmed and ranched food options, to ask that you vehemently oppose the United States Department of Agriculture’s proposed regulations under the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

At first glance, the provisions of NAIS provide for a technologically advanced level of food-borne illness security, whereby farmers tag every head of livestock and poultry in the country, and with the USDA then provided access to the electronic tracking of said livestock and poultry. In the event of a disease outbreak, applicable government agencies would then require notification within 48 hours of (1) which specific animals were involved, (2) where these animals are currently located, and (3) other animals that may have been exposed (due to proximity to the “diseased” animal). In this way, any future livestock/poultry related disease outbreak could be identified, tracked, and sequestered. Reality, though, paints a much different picture.

Under the USDA’s proposed NAIS regulations, the following would be required:

1. Premises Registration: Every person who owns or manages locations where livestock and poultry are handled would be required to register in a government database, or a government-accessible, private database. This includes people who own even one horse, chicken, goat, sheep, cow, pig, deer, or elk.

2. Animal Identification: Every animal would be assigned a unique 15-digit number by the government when said animal is moved from its herd of origin and/or commingled with other animals. Each animal would be required to bear permanent identification in the form of radio frequency identification (RFI) tags or microchips, rather than the less expensive, traditional forms of physical tagging. While the USDA claims that poultry and swine will get “group numbers,” most small farmers and companion-animal owners do not keep animals in ways that would allow exemption from these provisions.

3. Animal Tracking: Owners would be required to report, within 24 hours, every instance of an animal’s being tagged or having lost a tag, every death, slaughter or missing animal, and any and every “commingling” event, including public and private sales, shows, and exhibitions.

Please note that the verbiage and structure of the proposed NAIS regulations allow for large-scale, industrial animal processing operations, due to the nature and organization of these operations, to side-step the single animal identification provision by providing a “group identification number” in lieu of a single-animal identification. Also note that it is the very conditions in which animals are bred and raised in such large-scale, close-confine, industrial operations that not only promote, but propagate the spread of the very diseases that NAIS regulations are ostensibly aimed at preventing. In addition, any proposed animal tracking system is rendered useless in tracking and/or preventing post-slaughter diseases (such as salmonella, for instance), in that (1) said tracking devices are discarded at the time of slaughter (i.e., do not follow the carcass through processing), and (2) the spread of post-slaughter disease is a function of poor slaughter house hygiene and food handling practices – concerns the USDA is supposedly already monitoring.

In short, the proposed provisions of NAIS represent an unprecedented expansion of government bureaucracy into citizens’ private lives, and infringes on property and privacy rights. The program will impose onerous monetary and logistical burdens on small-scale livestock owners, driving many of these family-run operations out of business. Cost estimates for implementation of NAIS range into the hundreds of millions of dollars; a cost burden that will have to be shouldered collectively by the livestock owners themselves, either out-of-pocket or via taxpayer subsidy. And for all this added cost and government intrusion and oversight, the provisions of the NAIS will provide little in the way of animal health, food safety or consumer protection.

I urge you, Congressman Butterfield, to lead Congress in putting a stop to the USDA’s continuing attempts at pushing for implementation of the NAIS, and I ask that you call for Congressional hearings into this issue. Small poultry flocks, livestock herds, and family farms in general are not the source of food born disease, as the animals thereon are not raised in overcrowded conditions, fed substandard feed, or living in their own filth. This explanation is exactly, though, the case with animals raised in industrial, close-confine, animal operations; the same operations exempt from the most onerous and cost-heavy of the proposed NAIS provisions.

Thomas Jefferson championed the small, independent farmer as the backbone of a strong and healthy America. I urge you not to allow these proposed onerous regulations to further dismantle the America that Jefferson envisioned. He who controls the food, Congressman Butterfield, controls the populace. Control of the food supply should rightly remain with the people and with the small, independent farmer and rancher, and not be placed squarely in the hands of government entity or profit-hungry, agri-business.

I look forward, Congressman Butterfield, to your written response.

Please do your part to actively engage your representatives, either via snail-mail, email, or phone.  Let your voice be heard.

In health,

Keith

8 COMMENTS

  1. Keith,
    Great letter. I do think that it may carry a bit more bite if you mention your credentials under your name or attach a cv to the letter. Also, I remember you saying something in your of military experience, and that never hurts. I will be happy to forward to Texas Reps.

  2. Keith,

    I agree with Kim. In addition, do you have small/independent farmers that the congressman can contact? The people versus large agri-business will be a tough battle. There needs to be a grass-roots movement (no pun intended). Can you provide the final letter as a PDF so your readers can email to their respective congressmen.

    Thanks,
    Kyle

    • Sure thing, Kyle. And for what it’s worth, I have provided my co-op with a copy of the letter. I’ll see what I can come up with on the PDF front. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. Great letter! In a recent coversation with someone from FoodLogiQ a company that tracks vegetables from farm to final destination of grocery store whether fresh, frozen or canned… I asked why are the backyard gardeners and their produce not tracked, after all couldn’t a pathogen from a backyard garden spread infection over an entire field of produce that are destined for public consumption across the nation? The answer was it would be too costly, too intrusive and too much for any company to handle…besides, the infected produce would be caught at the processing plant and traced back to the field they came from and handled from there…no need to go into the private backyard. Then why does the USDA feel the need to intrude on every parakeet, potbelly pig, pony or granny’s hens?

    Because the USDA is owned, influenced and paid for by coporate ag using our tax dollars. They want all the marbles and they want us to do all the work and pay for NAIS but get none of the profits nor benefits!

    PLEASE FEDERAL GOVT PROTECT ME FROM MYSELF! I AM OUT TO GET ME!

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