FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FAMILY FARMERS, RANCHERS AND CONSUMERS APPLAUD USDA DECISION TO END CONTROVERSIAL ANIMAL ID PROGRAM
Groups Thank Secretary Vilsack for Listening to Real Farmers, Not Agribusiness
(February 9, 2010) - Family farmers, ranchers and consumer groups expressed pleasure with USDA's recent decision to halt the badly flawed National Animal Identification System (NAIS). For the past five years, grassroots farmers and ranchers have battled against the implementation of NAIS, which was created by industrial livestock and meatpacking interests to shift the burden of animal disease problems onto the backs of family farmers instead of corporate agribusinesses. The imposition of NAIS would have severely hindered the recent movement towards more sustainable local food systems.
Rhonda Perry, a Missouri livestock producer and National Family Farm Coalition member, praised Secretary Vilsack for listening to family farmers. Perry said, "This is a sweet victory for our democratic process and we are deeply appreciative of Secretary Vilsack for listening to our voices, especially for those of us who don't have corporate lobbyists and thousands of dollars to give in campaign contributions. NAIS has further exposed that the Big Ag groups in DC that claim to speak on behalf of family farmers are in many cases working against our best interests. In state after state, the Farm Bureau, National Pork Producers Council, National Cattlemen's Beef Association attempted to block family farmer efforts to prevent USDA from imposing NAIS. Fortunately, the voices of independent livestock producers prevailed."
USDA's release stated that "the vast majority of participants [at the listening sessions] were highly critical of the program." NAIS opponents are hopeful that USDA will continue to consult with grassroots farmers as they move forward. Judith McGeary, a Texas livestock rancher and executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, commented: "The people who opposed NAIS came from every walk of life. Small farmers, organic producers, consumers, horse owners, homesteaders, conventional ranchers, and property rights advocates, all lent their voices to the overwhelming opposition to this ill-conceived program. We hope that USDA continues to listens to the voices of real Americans, not just the usual suspects in the Agribusiness world, as it develops its plans for interstate traceability." Bill Bullard, Chief Executive Officer of Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA), added, "We are encouraged by the Secretary's statement regarding the need to also strengthen our import controls to prevent the introduction of disease through our borders."
Consumer group Food & Water Watch had also criticized NAIS for not addressing the root causes of our flawed food safety and animal disease problems. "Now that the USDA has realized that the proposed NAIS was unworkable, it's time for the agency to turn its attention to an effort that would actually protect consumers," said Patty Lovera, assistant director for Food & Water Watch. "USDA should start improving the testing of meat in slaughterhouses where many of our food safety problems occur, and fix their inspection policies to make sure that contaminated meat is traced back to the slaughterhouses were it was produced."