Stop National Animal ID
Sold Out by Farm Bureau
by Karin Bergener

Farm Bureau members who have asked what their Farm Bureau is doing to stop the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) are surprised to learn that Farm Bureau—at least the American Farm Bureau Foundation—supports the NAIS. If so many members are against the NAIS, how did Farm Bureau decide to support it? What can members do about it? Can Farm Bureau’s policies be changed? If not, what does that mean for Farm Bureau members?

According to Farm Bureau’s policy statement: “We support the establishment and implementation of a mandatory national animal identification system capable of providing support for animal disease control and eradication, as well as enhancing food safety. Only non-profit agricultural or meat/livestock organizations should have control of the animal ID program. Private ‘for profit’ companies should not control the program. Cost-sharing support from the federal government is important for development and implementation. The identification of animals should not be required until the animal is moved from the original registered premise [sic]. Producer information should be confidential and exempt under the Freedom of Information Act.”

The introduction to this policy statement covers the USDA’s legal basis for the NAIS, and the role of the states. It lists Farm Bureau’s two concerns—cost and confidentiality—and adds a third, that the NAIS should protect producers from food adulteration claims.

Nothing about this statement is fuzzy or difficult to interpret. Farm Bureau wants a mandatory animal identification system. It wants taxpayers to shoulder the costs. It wants all information involving animal movements to be kept confidential.

This policy conflicts directly with other long-held American Farm Bureau policies. Two of those policies, as stated in Farm Bureau Policies for 2006, are: “individual freedom and opportunity must not be sacrificed in a quest for guaranteed security,” and “property rights are among the human rights essential to the preservation of human freedom.” How do these Farm Bureau policies square with a mandatory NAIS?

Karin Bergener is an attorney living in Freedom, Ohio, a former member of the board of directors of the Portage County, Ohio, Farm Bureau, and co-founder of Liberty Ark Coalition. This article appeared in the Holiday 2006 issue of Rural Heritage.

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20 November 2006