|USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack last Friday (Feb. 5, 2010) announced the cancellation of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) due to producer and consumer concerns. His agency instead will offer a new approach to animal disease traceability with changes that respond directly to the feedback that was heard.
For the past five years, grassroots farmers and ranchers have battled against the implementation of NAIS, which they say, was created by industrial livestock and meatpacking interests to shift the burden of animal disease and food safety onto the backs of family farmers instead of corporate agribusinesses.
"The decision to scrap this program is a direct result of grassroots opposition by producers and concerned consumers across the country," said Rhonda Perry, program director of MRCC and a livestock and grain farmer from Howard County, MO. "MRCC livestock producer members along with thousands of producers across the country voiced stringent opposition to this unwanted and unnecessary program and their voices were heard."
More than 300 livestock producers and concerned consumers attended the NAIS Listening Session in Jefferson City on June 9, 2009. Fifty-five Missouri citizens testified with 54 in opposition to NAIS and only one in support. According to a news release from the USDA, the vast majority of participants were highly critical of the program.
After USDA officials said they would start over in trying to devise a livestock tracking program that would have support from throughout the industry, NAIS opponents were hopeful that independent farmers would be part of the process.
Hoping that many aspects of the new program will be left to the states, Perry said that MRCC and other family farm groups will be diligent in their efforts to ensure that the new program will meet the needs of independent producers and consumers without creating undue burdens on family farmers.
Perry also credited Senator Claire McCaskill with getting a listening session held in Missouri and for expressing concern over the USDA's proposed rule to fully implement NAIS.