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Is NAIS an Ag Version of Star Wars?

by: Jill Richardson

Thu Apr 09, 2009 at 06:00:00 AM PDT

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I was only a toddler back when Reagan proposed Star Wars, but I can imagine how great it sounded at the time. To our country, still gripped by the Cold War and the fear of instant annihilation at the hands of a distant government, it must have sounded great. Even now, people STILL talk about a "missile defense shield" that would protect us from any incoming nuclear strikes, even though most people know the whole plan is bogus. And, bogus or not, it didn't stop us from spending a whole lot of money on it all. So now we are STILL vulnerable to incoming nuclear attacks, protected only by our own diplomatic and intelligence abilities to prevent them. Scary - but what can you do? Throw more money into a bullshit missile defense shield that doesn't work?

It seems to be that NAIS (the National Animal ID System) is the ag equivalent of Star Wars. Here's why...

Jill Richardson :: Is NAIS an Ag Version of Star Wars?
Collin Peterson recently said that NAIS would be crucial if we had an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the U.S. - an outbreak that could destroy our export markets. If NAIS was in place, the government claims that they could stop the disease in its tracks within 48 hours. And if NAIS is going to kill small farmers and leave consumers with no choice besides factory farmed meat, milk, and eggs, so be it.

So let's look into the threat of FMD (foot and mouth disease). Here's what you need to know:

  • It's NOT a human health threat
  • It's highly contagious & it's airborne.
  • The incubation period is short - unlike mad cow disease, FMD shows up within 2 weeks after you catch it.
  • Domestic animals (cows, sheep, etc) can catch it - but so can wild animals like deer.
  • If left untreated, most animals recover from FMD.
  • If an outbreak occurred in the U.S. it would kill our export markets - at least temporarily. The economic fallout would be BAD.
  • Right now, the US is FMD-free.
  • The best way to prevent an FMD outbreak here is to NOT IMPORT animals that might have FMD.

The threat, if you care about our export markets for livestock, is roughly like a nuclear bomb. It could come anytime, from anywhere, and it's instant (economic) annihilation. It's really scary. The government's general plan if it happens is to find all of the sick or exposed animals as quickly as possible and kill them. Yes - you read that right. This is a disease that nearly all animals recover from naturally, but the government would kill them. And to aid with the killing, they want to register all animals in a burdensome, costly, Big Brothery national animal ID system.

But - unfortunately - killing all of the animals, even if they were registered in NAIS, likely wouldn't work. It wouldn't work because it totally ignores wild animals, who could also catch and carry the disease. And, to the government's chagrin perhaps, there's no way to register and track every single wild animal in America. It's about as feasible as shooting down an incoming nuclear missile. It sounds like a really good idea, but the odds that it would actually work aren't good.

So what do we do instead? Prevention! In the case of getting nuked, we use intelligence and diplomacy. Keep nukes out of the hands of rogue states and terrorists, work with other countries toward nuclear non-proliferation, and don't provoke other countries into war!

How about preventing FMD? Well, it doesn't exist in the U.S. now so if it came here, we know it would come from imports. Wouldn't it make the most sense to put our resources into inspecting and tracking our imports? What about banning imports from countries that have FMD? Or is that idea just too easy?

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More about FMD (4.00 / 4)

The last infection in the US occurred in 1929 and was controlled without computers, databases, expensive RFID chips, and probably even without telephones.

To prevent the spread of FMD, fast diagnosis and quarantine is needed. Tracing the source of the infection is important, but if it is contaminated feed/waste or human action, NAIS would not be useful. If the NAIS information is not accurate (wrong id recorded at wrong premise, not timely) it would complicate the trace back.

The recent UK FMD cases were traced to contaminated, imported waste and to the lab that was conducting FMD research.


The United States has faced FMD nine times since 1870. Each time the disease was eradicated with strict slaughter and quarantine control procedures. The most serious outbreak started in Michigan in 1914 and spread to 22 states after it gained entry to the Chicago stockyards. Between 1914 and 1915, over 172,000 cattle, sheep, and swine were slaughtered. In 1924, an outbreak in California resulted in the slaughter of 109,000 farm animals and 22,000 deer. The last FMD outbreak occurred near Montebello, California, in 1929. Infected hogs contracted the disease after being fed swill with meat scraps from a tourist steamship coming from Argentina. Five herds were slaughtered (3,600 animals) and the outbreak was controlled within one month.

More from Rep. DeLauro (4.00 / 4)

DeLauro has long been an advocate of a mandatory program and has criticised the decision to make it voluntary.

She had this to say about NAIS:

As an example of the delays, DeLauro reminded Vilsack that USDA announced in March 2007 that it would conduct a cost-benefit study of a voluntary versus mandatory program.

"Two years later, aside from hearing rumors that it's completed, we're still waiting to learn of the results of this study," DeLauro said.

"Five years they've had to talk about it and $142 million, and we have zero to show for it."

Yes, Rep DeLauro, let's take an intrusive, expensive, unnecessary program, with no cost/benefit analysis, that is detested by 70% of the producers, that has blown through $142 million with the blessings of Congress, and make it mandatory.

If Star Wars was a ploy (4.00 / 3)
to benefit the military industrial complex, then it would make sense that this is a ploy to benefit the agricultural industrial complex.

Vote for yourself at!

Bingo! (4.00 / 3)

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
NAIS, a solution that has nothing to do with the problem. (4.00 / 4)
After talking with staffers in DC who support NAIS, I am still not sure what NAIS is supposed to do. WI Rep. David Obey, a strong NAIS supporter, feels we need NAIS to keep our food safe. Therefor it is a food safety issue.

Staffers in Colin Peterson's office say we need NAIS so, as this post says, we can track animal disease outbreaks.

These are two entirely different interpretations of NAIS coming from two different and very powerful Congressional offices. So, what is it???

Even Peterson's staff is upset with the food safety angle being used, they know NAIS has nothing to do with food safety, never did never will.  

If NAIS is about animal tracking, why can large CAFO's identify animals by groups or pens, not as individual animals like small farmers and livestock owners need to do? What, CAFO's never buy, sell or have one animal die at a time, only in groups?

In terms of moving animals around, small farms don't even come close to moving animals like the big operations, so why the disparity in the proposed application of NAIS?

NAIS will do little more than deliver a false sense of security and benefit the companies that make the ID equipment. If you want to keep track of your livestock, don't keep them in groups of 1,000's or tens of 1,000's, it is not antural.

If you want safe meat, clean up the slaughter plants, slow them down, pay the workers a fair wage and let them do a careful job.

Hire enough inspectors so both imported and domestically produced food is inspected.

These however, are solutions that would cut into the profits of the corporate food system and we can't have nonsense like that happening. Big AG is much better off if we pretend NAIS will protect us. They know it and apparently so do several of DC's most vocal NAIS supporters.



It is a boondoggle system built on lies.  There are disease tracking and  control systems in place that work.

 The reasons we are told NAIS is needed keeps changing. (Disease protection, bioterrorism, global market, etc). Yet when Creekstone Beef wanted to test every cow they process for BSE, the USDA says they cannot!!!Creekstone had to take the USDA to court to sue for the right to test for BSE!

And what does my reporting to the USDA when I take my horse off my property have to do with big ag selling beef to Japan? How will granny telling when her home raised/slaughtered chickens are eaten by her family (all animal deaths are reportable events) ensure that the Japanese are eating safe American raised beef?

 Avian flu is given as a reason for NAIS, yet less than 200 have died worldwide from Avian flu while thousands die from regular flu in the US each year.  

NAIS subterfuge (4.00 / 1)
Many have been signed up for NAIS without their permission or knowledge (nearly 14,000 in Idaho).  Would you like to be signed up, say for a new car lease without your permission or knowledge? be responsible for the monthly payments and not even sure the car will run?

It is important to learn from history or we are doomed to repeat it.  
1938-Nazi Germany makes it a law that ALL JEWS have to register every piece of property they own into a massive database.  IT worked.  The Gestapo knew exactly who to raid by the value of their art and jewelry.  We know the rest of the story, a minor event called the Holocaust!
In the same time period, the Russian Communist Govt under Stalin starved millions of farmers in the most fertile part of the country because the law stated that ALL the grain they grew belonged to the govt!  They were not even allowed to eat what they grew!

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