No more NAIS!

On February 5, the New York Times reported that the USDA was scrapping the National Animal Identification Program (NAIS), “a national program intended to help authorities quickly identify and track livestock in the event of an animal disease outbreak” that has been in the news for at least 4 years. This much-maligned proposal treated all levels of producers similarly, from Big Ag’s concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to homesteaders raising meat for their families. As proposed, NAIS raised serious questions, including confidentiality and privacy, but the biggest concern was the high cost and low feasibility of implementation for producers smaller than factory size, because they would have to tag and track every animal owned. Many small producers effectively would have been put out of business, thereby removing an important link in the local market chain that allows us all access to good, clean, and fair food.

Secretary of Agrigulture Tom Vilsack made the announcement while the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published a factsheet explaining plans to create the Animal Disease Traceability Framework. In this FAQ, the USDA admits that “the vast majority of participants were highly critical” of NAIS and promises to include “representatives from States, Tribal Nations, industry groups, local farms, organic farmers, and underserved communities” in the new effort. What’s more, it promises to allow “maximum flexibility” and to “reduce the burden on producers.”

Of course the reality remains to be seen, but for now, saying “no” to NAIS is a victory for small farmers, because “producers who raise animals and move them within a State, Tribal Nation, or to local markets, as well as to feed themselves, their families, and their neighbors are not part of USDA’s framework’s scope and focus.” Thanks to all the people who signed petitions, wrote to lawmakers, and generally made noise about NAIS—and hoorah for all of our local livestock farmers!