| Yesterday the House Ag Committee held a hearing about the National Animal ID System. In a very timely move, the New York Times published a fantastic op ed on the subject called "Tag, We're It".
The author gets right to the point:
...the National Animal Identification System... would end up rewarding the factory farms whose practices encourage disease while crippling small farms and the local food movement.
She goes on to say:
For factory farms, the costs of following the procedures for the system would be negligible. These operations already use computer technology, and under the system, swine and poultry that move through a production chain at the same time could be given a single number. On small, traditional farms like my family's, each animal would require its own number. That means the cost of tracking 1,000 animals moving together through a factory system would be roughly equal to the expense that a small farmer would incur for tracking one animal.
She details the costs to a small farmer and estimates her own cost at $10,000 per year - or 10% of her gross receipts. Then she goes into the type of hassle it would entail... imagine your record-keeping nightmare when 200 lambs are born at once, or 300 chickens arrive. And you face a penalty if a coyote steals a chicken and you don't report it to the government.
She also mentions trying to tag her guineas, which isn't easy. A friend of mine keeps guineas because they eat a lot of pest insects. But the guineas aren't easy to catch. It seemed to me like the guineas were more or less just wild birds that stay on the property for the free food.
So all in all, what do we get from NAIS? Factory farms get an extra PR boost because they can say their food is registered in this big, fancy, expensive "food safety" system. But small farmers will get a huge burden when in reality their farming methods prevent disease to begin with. She says "when small farms are full participants in a local food system, tracking a diseased animal doesn't require an exorbitantly expensive national database." Yes! Exactly!
The big ending of the piece is that we could better use our money (over $200 million per year according to government estimates) for PREVENTION. Hell yeah!!!