Thursday, February 23, 2006

National Animal Identification System?

There's a lot swirling around on this, and it's worth paying attention to, even if you're a complete hive dweller without the foggiest idea of the existence of any animal that's not a cat, dog, or sidewalk pigeon that isn't plastic-wrapped and sold by the pound in a freezer section.

Here's the predictably starry-eyed government blurb.

The plan is currently voluntary, but it's explicitly intended to become a mandatory agriculture regulation, which puts this front-and-center as something that needs to be discussed.

Small farmers are up at arms, because whereas the NIAA members responding to "stakeholder surveys" are big producers like Monsanto and Cargill (you know, the folks who run the ugly feedlot farms spreading disease in the first place?), who would only be required to have a "premises identification system," small producers would be required to track each and every animal... a bureaucratic nightmare which they say would effectively put them out of business.
Oh. And the big boys don't have to register their homes with the feds, either.

That's bad news if you raise animals for any other reason than for mass meat production. If they're right, you can effectively write off anybody who's trying to keep endangered or older species alive... and homesteaders (for you hive people, that's "people who raise their own food") would certainly face an undue and unreasonable regulatory burden that would have almost no effect in actually stopping animal disease.

Worse than that, it looks, from the NAIS' own admission, that the folks pushing the program are precisely the ones who would benefit from the mandatory sale of the technology to farmers. This is openly corrupt: not that this should be any surprise, since it is the USDA, after all, but its shamelessness is still galling, even as it has been forced to backpedal from its original idea of maintaining a Big-Brother-like registry of every horse owner and 4H kid in the country.

Luckily, us locals down here in Texas have bitched up a storm, and TAHC is slowing down to take a serious second look about how this sucker gets implemented. Because as the federal version is written now, I have to say that the small-time folks are right: with its emphasis on uniformity whether or not it's actually appropriate, this is at least as much about control as it is about disease prevention.

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