Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Biggest animal-ID hearing yet draws from 6 states

More than 200 farmers and ranchers came to Jefferson City, Mo., today, "to speak their minds about the USDA’s National Animal Identification System," reports Brownfield Network's Julie Harker. "Throughout the day, only a few people testified in favor of a mandatory animal ID system – one of them was booed away from the podium. Most who spoke on the record either want NAIS kept voluntary or they don’t want it at all." (Brownfield photo: The crowd, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack via video)

Harker reports that the crowd at USDA's ninth "listening session" on NAIS was the largest yet, drawing people from Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. "In general, farmers at the hearing agree, the real problem for food safety begins at the processing door and not with independent farmers," Harker writes.

Some, such as northwest Missouri farmer Richard Oswald, see unfairness in how a mandatory NAIS would affect small farmers and confined animal feeding operations. "We are told that we must reveal in the most exacting of ways what livestock we have and where they are daily, even though ours are not the livestock causing the problem in the first place," he said. "Get this: Imported animals and CAFO-raised livestock won’t be required to have individual animal IDs like our animals, because they will come from farms so large that they’d only have to have one number for thousands of head, or maybe no number at all."

Oswald, right, prepared his testimony and published it on the Daily Yonder as the hearing began. He concluded, "After months, even years, of hearing first that animal ID would be good for markets, then that it was needed to protect against terrorism, next that it would control food contamination, and now that we need it to prevent disease, I am exhausted by unending propaganda and unlimited excuse. ... What they propose won’t make livestock healthy, it won’t create more competition in the marketplace, it won’t keep America safer, and it won’t improve my profits. I’d like to thank USDA, but what their plan offers to do is increase my costs, wrap me in red tape, and make it impossible for me to earn a living producing food while it grants control of that production to corporate giants. So I’ll save my thanks for when they go back to being government for the people, and finally restore my right to do honorable work for a free nation." (Read more)

UPDATE, June 10: Oswald has a story on the Yonder about the hearing, laying out in detail farmers' issues with a mandatory system. To read it, click here.

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