From the Underground Food Movement-
Written by: Maria Minno

Sustainable farms, healthy foods, local foods

NAIS Is A Threat To Small Sustainable Farms and Ranches

NAIS is the National Animal Identification, a government system to track animals by injecting them with a computer chip that is read and reported on by the farmer whenever an animal changes places. It will require small farmers to spend a great deal of money on equipment and inserting the chips and reporting any changes, with terrible fines for computer errors, acts of nature, or non-compliance. Large feedlots are virtually exempted from the process, as they need only one chip number for hundreds of animals.

NAIS is a very important issue to me, as well as to small farmers, who produce our healthiest foods in a sustainable manner. It will not help with food safety, however.

The USDA will be in charge of NAIS, and the government is pushing it, because they are being heavily lobbied by the companies who will make millions off of the tags, reading equipment, and data management. It makes it look like they are doing something to promote food safety, yet NAIS is the antithesis of food safety.

The National Animal Identification System is truly frightening to me. Clearly, the modern American food system is not keeping us safe. Yet NAIS is more dangerous than the status quo. It is Orwellian, it threatens small farms, it runs against my beliefs, and is a threat to my basic needs.

It’s not that we do not need vast improvements in food safety to clear up our health crisis and food contamination dangers. We do! But corporate agribusiness pressure is preventing Congress and the USDA from enacting and enforcing true animal health and food safety measures. NAIS is not an animal health or food safety measure.

The USDA has been hearing overwhelming opposition to this measure, from both consumers and farmers. I will add my voice to the choir. I am a nutritional therapy practitioner, and I represent myself, my family, and my clients who rely upon high quality foods from small farms to regain and maintain their health. We all say that NAIS is not the animal health or food safety solution this country needs.

I am suffering from mercury poisoning caused by having a lot of silver fillings, which were removed with no consideration for the toxicity of mercury, and by consuming a lot of catfish that were contaminated with mercury and DDT. In order to survive and get well, I need to eat a lot of the highest quality milk, meat, eggs, and other animal foods. I am very careful about what I purchase, because I feel the quality of my food immediately in my day-to-day well-being. Most of the foods I buy are from small local farmers.

Because of my personal experience, I have changed the way I feed my family. My family members and my grandchildren all eat high quality animal foods from local farms, and I can really see the difference in their health and well being, especially compared to other families we know. My husband recovered from osteopoenia within a year of changing our diet to locally purchased meat and milk, and my son also became much healthier. Local animal foods have saved my life during my difficult struggles with chronic mercury toxicity.

I serve a number of clients who also have serious chronic health problems. Like me, they have found that proper nutrition is much more effective than drugs and medical procedures in improving their health and well-being. These people also rely upon animal foods from small local farms to keep them alive and healthy. If NAIS is implemented, I believe we will have NO MORE local small farms to purchase high quality products from. This is a huge quality of life issue for many people, and may even be a life-and-death issue for me, personally.

Corporate industrial farms may want to use NAIS to improve their overseas sales, and I have no objection to them tagging their own animals. Let them. However, because the tags are known to cause cancer, I wouldn’t want to eat the meat they produce, and I don’t think people from other countries will, either, once they know the tags cause cancer. And NAIS is clearly not the answer to animal health or food safety for food we want to consume in our own country.

I have a friend who did a lot of health care work at the VA hospital in Gainesville. She said that the identification tags the veterans had embedded in their necks, which are very similar to the NAIS tags, caused terrible cancers. Research shows that these tags used on pets are causing cancer, also. I do not want to eat food that has been injected with cancer causing tags. Do you?

The REAL sources of food safety problems are huge confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that concentrate thousands of animals in one location, as well as unsafe practices at the slaughterhouse and in food processing. NAIS traceability ends at the slaughterhouse, so what’s the point?

NAIS requires small farmers and ranchers to track each animal individually, while allowing CAFOs to track all animals under one blanket Group Identification Number. So it will be infinitely easier for the huge and dangerous CAFO’s to comply with NAIS, and impossible for the small farmers and ranchers. Thus, the USDA is promoting factory farms whose practices encourage disease, while putting small farms out of business and destroying the local food movement with their tag requirements and fees. Whose USDA is this, anyway?

What we actually need is small farms scattered all over, especially around urban areas, where the demand is the greatest and the distance the smallest, for energy efficiency and food security. The huge centralized CAFOs clearly are not good for people, for the environment, for animals, or for food safety. They are not even good for the economy, because, like WalMart, they replace the local small businesses (farms) with low-income low-quality slave labor types of jobs.

We need diversified farms, which are more sustainable, healthy, efficient, productive, and safe. If a local farm grows both animals and plants, their ecology supports one another (fertilizer for the plants, food and bugs for the animals). Small, sustainable farms are a pleasure to live near; CAFO’s are a blight.

We need to improve the viability of our own farming sector by making imports more costly, by increasing inspections of imported animals and agricultural products, and barring the entry of animals from countries with known disease problems.

We need to support our small farms, not try to put them out of business with laws and regulations such as NAIS. Read Joel Salatin’s book, “Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal” if you want to hear a funny but true story of the difficulties of producing really high quality food in this country.

We particularly need to improve enforcement of existing laws and inspections of large slaughterhouses and food processing facilities, including unannounced spot inspections. I heard an interesting story about the USDA slaughterhouse near Gainesville. Apparently they were stealing and switching meat, so that high quality grassfed meat that my friend was selling would be replaced at the slaughterhouse by conventional, low quality meat. My friend tried to talk with the slaughterhouse management, but the unethical practice continued. When my friend asked the USDA to intervene, they said that wasn’t their job!

It appears that the USDA sees its job as protecting the huge industrial farms from competition from small farms that produce exceptionally high quality food that is now in high demand.

Where NAIS has been tried already, it has been found to be a resounding failure for all of its stated goals. NAIS is government control and ineptitude magnified a million-fold. Furthermore, it is reminiscent of the practices of Nazi Germany. NAIS may make a few large corporations wealthy (like the tag and reader manufacturers and database managers), but for all the rest of us, it has no redeeming value, and an unacceptable cost.

Please stop this travesty now.

To sign a petition against HR 2749

To sign a petition against NAIS

To submit comments regarding NAIS to the USDA

For more information on NAIS and HR 2749

Gainesville Sun editorial on HR 2749