NAIS? Oink!!

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What would lead a group of Amish farmers in Wisconsin to consider moving to Venezuela? Why are dairy farmers and ranchers in Michigan considering selling their herds? Why, NAIS, of course!

NAIS stands for National Animal Identification System. It was originally designed to protect exporters of beef from cattle disease by tagging the cattle, and thus, presumably, make outbreaks of animal disease easier to detect earlier. But the idea has been expanded to include all farm animals, including those not part of the food chain, such as horses, for example, kept on farms as pets, or llamas. Critics suggest that even cats and dogs will be included, eventually.

NAIS is voluntary, at this point — at least as far as the feds are concerned. However, individual states can make participation compulsory, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages them to do so. Wisconsin, for example, requires dairy farmers to register their farms, thus acquiring an ID number linked to a Global Positional Satellite monitoring system. Failure to register results in denial of a license to produce milk, thus effectively putting the farmer out of business. No wonder the Amish are considering a move to Venezuela! (However, they may be naïve to think that government in Venezuela is any less obnoxious than it is here.)

The tagging of animals is not a small job. There are about 1.4 million farms in the United States. If — or when — the tagging of animals becomes mandatory, it will mean inserting tags into 95 million cattle, 93 million turkeys, 60 million pigs, 6.3 million sheep, 1.8 billion chickens, and 2.5 million goats. But the really big producers will get a break. (Isn’t that always the case?) Large farms, where the cattle spend their entire lives cooped up, will be able to register their animals as a single lot. Smaller operators, however, must tag each individual animal, at costs ranging as high as $20 per tag. Veterinarians will be required to report non-compliance that comes to their attention.

The claimed justification for all this is to enhance America’s position as a food exporter, by making it easier to track down and eradicate disease in animals destined for overseas sale. This obviously has nothing to do, however, with the millions of farms that are not involved in food exportation. As is often the case, we suspect that the real purpose of the program is not the stated one. If the really big food exporters want to minimize competition, subjecting the smaller producers to the demands of NAIS — which involves not only the tagging, but considerable paperwork, plus registration of the farm itself, with additional paperwork and fees, is ideal for the job. Perhaps that explains the enthusiastic support of NAIS by Cargill Meat Solutions, Monsanto, and Schering-Plough, which, with a few other companies, formed the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, and created NAIS for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Imagine: a government program which benefits the big boys, at the expense of everyone else! Does the term "cronyism" ring a bell?

Farmers in Wisconsin are not the only ones thinking of leaving the U.S. Lakota Indians are considering leaving also, but not physically. Claiming that the U.S. government has broken its treaties with them, the Lakota Indians are determined to establish an independent Lakota nation, and have sent delegations to the State Department, as well as the embassies of several foreign nations, seeking recognition for their plan to establish their own nation in areas now parts of the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana. Activist Indian leader Russell Means says that present Indian leaders are "Vichy Indians," collaborating with the U.S. government to "ensure our poverty, to ensure the theft of our land and resources." The Bolivian Ambassador, Gustavo Guzman, says he is taking the Lakota’s declaration of independence seriously. No word, as yet, of the reaction of U.S. authorities, although I think we can safely assume they take a dim view of Lakota independence. The idea, after all, could spread.

What’s good for the Lakotas is good for the rest of us, too!

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is author of All Work & No Pay, which is out of print, but may occasionally be obtained on eBay.

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