Wednesday, January 31, 2007

NAIS "opt out" clause?

Could the government be listening to the small, local farmers and livestock owners? Dare we believe that our voices have carried on the wind all the way to Washington?

Here's a rather interesting email forward I received today on a local list, especially considering that I just read Joel Salatin's rant about the lack of an "opt out" clause in The Omnivore's Dilemma.

USDA provides an "OPT OUT" procedure for NAIS

In a dramatic reversal of policy, the USDA has decided to provide an "OPT OUT" procedure for people whose premises have been registered in the National Animal Identification Program. Complaints have continued to mount in several states from landowners who have discovered that their premises were registered in the NAIS without their knowledge or permission. On Friday, January 26th, Ben Kaczmarski, a spokesman for USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, told the Liberty Ark Coalition,, that the USDA has decided to provide an "opt out" procedure. Even though the protocol has not yet been fully defined, Kaczmarski said the procedure would require a person who wants to opt out, to write a formal request to be removed from the NAIS, to the state NAIS coordinator. This procedure, not yet published by USDA, would require the state NAIS coordinator to confirm the validity of the request, and advance the request to USDA. The USDA will then, presumably, remove the name from the registry, according to Kaczmarski.

State NAIS coordinators can be located at this website:

The new "OPT OUT" procedure was received with enthusiasm, and skepticism, by the farm and ranch community. "Many people are sure to file requests for removal of their premises from the NAIS registry in the coming weeks," said Judith McGeary, a member of the Liberty Ark Coalition Steering Committee. "And we are set up to monitor the process to see just how long it takes, and what bureaucratic obstacles have to be overcome."

"Opponents of the NAIS are skeptical because the USDA has a history of saying one thing to the public," says McGeary, "while doing quite another thing behind the scenes."

Another Steering Committee member, Randy Givens, says: "Everyone in the grassroots community should take heart at this evidence of their joint efforts, but people should also remember that this is a proposed protocol that can be changed at any time. This opt-out procedure is just one aspect of the evolving plans for NAIS at both the federal and state levels."

Opposition to the NAIS forced the USDA to renounce its planned time-line to make the NAIS mandatory starting in 2007. The new USDA policy calls for a "voluntary" NAIS, but behind the scenes, the USDA has poured funds into states that worked to make the program mandatory at the state level.

Another tactic being recommended by the Animal Identification Committee of the United States Animal Health Association is to create a list of "Consistent States" that require official identification of all breeding cattle. States not on that list could face restrictions of interstate commerce. Though this recommendation has not been adopted by the USDA, these behind-the-scenes maneuvers give credence to the concerns of NAIS opponents as to the sincerity of the USDA's announcement that the NAIS is, and will continue to be, a voluntary program.

Pat Stewart

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