barbara steever, colorado independent cattle growers association, darol dickinson, decentralized food system, factory farms, farm to consumer legal defense fund, food, food inc, food safety, free range meat, fresh the movie, globalization, haccp, kimmi lewis, michael pollan, michael taylor, mike callicrate, missouri rural crisis center, monsanto, nais, nais listening sessions can a monsanto administration really hear, national animal identification system, news, organic, our daily bread, politics, r-calf, rady ananda, rhonda perry, russ kremer, tom vilsack, usda, world according to monsanto
By Rady Ananda
Scrap NAIS; decentralize the food industry
The hottest topic in agriculture is NAIS – the proposed National Animal Identification System. Using embedded microchips and mountains of paperwork, the federal government plans to create a database that tracks every animal in the nation. Independent producers and privacy advocates adamantly oppose the plan.
From May 14th thru June 30th, the USDA held “listening sessions” in fourteen cities across the nation. USDA asserted it wants “to engage stakeholders and producers to hear not only their concerns about [NAIS], but also potential or feasible solutions to those concerns.”
USDA hoped the listening sessions would provide a forum where stakeholders could help devise a NAIS that producers could live with. Instead, ranchers and farmers want the entire NAIS plan scrapped. Over 1600 people attended these sessions, with 500 testifying. Eighty-five percent of those who spoke condemned NAIS.
Listening Session Quotes
Darol Dickinson, longhorn cattleman from Ohio, believes the USDA plan is being forced on producers, despite objection.
“They’ve conveyed to us that we have no right to oppose them. They’ve told people, ‘This is going to happen.’ That doesn’t sit well with independent thinking people, especially ranchers and farmers.”
Dickinson spoke at the Harrisburg, PA listening session and conveyed on Carl Lanore’s radio show:
“I told them that their ‘option’ reminded me of being an old herd sire – being pushed down an alley with an electric prod, and somebody mentions to the herd sire, ‘How do you want to be castrated – with a dull knife, with a burdizzo or an elastic band?’ And the answer, of course, is none of the above.”
One group opposing NAIS, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to re-focus the nation’s animal disease and food safety efforts on several alternatives including:
- Decentralize the livestock industry and encourage local, diversified farms, which would increase animal health, food security, and food safety;
- Increase inspections of imported animals and agricultural products and bar the entry of animals from countries with known disease problems; and
- Improve enforcement of existing laws and inspections of large slaughterhouses and food processing facilities, including unannounced spot inspections at those large facilities.
Mike Callicrate, an independent cattle producer, is not at all happy with NAIS. He firmly believes that the best way to protect the food supply is to enforce existing laws and go back to unannounced inspections of factory farms, slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants.
“Today, USDA, in protecting the biggest and dirtiest meat plants, continues to block trace-back of pathogens to the source plant, a very easy and inexpensive measure that could improve food safety tomorrow.”
He blames the 2002 E. coli contamination of 20 million pounds of ConAgra beef on lack of inspections.
“USDA has done nothing to address the problems in the big packing plants where E. coli is systematically put into our meat daily while trusting these big profit-driven companies to self inspect under the HACCP hoax.”
HACCP is the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points plan whereby meatpackers and processing plants inspect themselves. They determine where the most likely places of contamination would occur and design mitigation techniques. The plan is then submitted to the USDA for approval, but enforcing it is left to the companies themselves.
At the Loveland, Colorado listening session, Kimmi Lewis of the Colorado Independent Cattle Growers Association said, “This country is free because we are allowed to own private property.” If it’s tracked by government, it’s not private.
At the Harrisburg, PA listening session, horse breeder Barbara Steever called the USDA “disingenuous” for saying that NAIS will be used to control the spread of disease. To make her point, Steever then asked some hard-hitting questions:
- Why, then, are you lowering import restrictions to allow cattle in from Mexico that has bovine TB?
- Why are you trying to bring in cattle from Argentina that is known to have a reservoir of FMD (foot-and-mouth disease)?
- [Why are you allowing] cattle over 30 months of age from Canada, that have a higher risk of BSE, and disallowing private businesses from testing for BSE in response to their clients’ needs?
- Why are you moving a high security disease containment facility into the middle of cattle country?
One of the strongest speakers, Rhonda Perry, operates a livestock and grain operation. She spoke on behalf of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, representing 5,600 families. Reiterating above concerns, Perry adds:
“We see industrial livestock operations all over this country that have created incredible environmental, health and food safety concerns.”
Perry points out that none of today’s food safety issues are caused by independent family farmers. She challenges the USDA to increase competition as a strategy to increase food safety. Bust the monopolies and decentralize food production, “instead of looking at this unproven, ineffective, anti-farmer, corporate-driven program of NAIS.”
Others pointed out that NAIS violates our Constitutional rights, including religion. Amish and other religious communities reject implants and biotechnology.
Several dozen videos from the NAIS listening sessions have been posted at YouTube.
Interestingly, the USDA held no listening sessions in Wisconsin, where NAIS has been made mandatory. Farmers there are furious with the bureaucracy and have been warning the rest of the nation. In NAIS Smackdown: The gloves come off, R-Calf lists a better set of food safety proposals instead of NAIS.
Biggest Danger to Food Safety is a Centralized Food System
Safe food spokesperson, Michael Pollan, has long warned us that a centralized food system is uniquely vulnerable to disease and even to a terrorist attack. Also, because concentrated animal feeding operations require the use of antibiotics to keep the herd alive, superbugs with antibiotic resistance are becoming more common.
In the film, Fresh, Missouri natural hog farmer Russ Kremer shares a personal tale of how he almost died from contracting a monster form of strep. The experience convinced him to exterminate his entire herd and start over with a natural herd.
The USDA has a long history of using regulations (like HACCP) to protect Big Ag, instead of consumers and small producers. President Obama appointed Tom Vilsack, the “biotechnology governor of the year,” as Secretary of Agriculture. Obama also appointed Monsanto’s Michael Taylor to head the new Food Safety Working Group.
Astute writers and activists caution that even if NAIS is defeated, animal tracing is being snuck into pending legislation, such as HR 2749.
Independent family farmers will have a tough row to hoe trying to convince a Monsanto Administration to do right by small farmers. As they plead with a corporate-owned federal government intent on globalization, the American people may be their best ally.
Buy fresh, locally grown food. Support free range and organic farmers. Yes, healthy food costs more up front. But you save it on the back end, needing fewer doctor visits or pharmaceutical drugs to deal with the diseases (obesity, diabetes, cancer) caused by factory food. You’ll also contribute to your local economy and a healthy environment.
Several recent documentaries discuss the difference between natural and factory food production. In addition to The World According to Monsanto, be sure to see the films below (these are my reviews):
FOOD, Inc. Exposes Horrors of a Centralized Food System
Fresh: How We’re Supposed to Eat
Our Daily Bread a Radically Silent View of Factory Farming
Rady Ananda’s articles have appeared in several online and print publications, including three books. She graduated in December 2003 from The Ohio State University’s School of Agriculture with a BS in Natural Resources.
Darol Dickinson said:
Rady ~~ excellent. You are a OSU and Dr. Zartman is a dear friend. He visits our ranch 100 miles east of Columbus and brings OSU students. Thanks for this great article. I will forward it tomorrow. Darol Dickinson
Rady Ananda said:
thx, Darol ~ wow, you’re right on the border! pretty hilly that way.
we did a little archeological dig in Gratiot a couple times – found a lot of native American artifacts. I have arrowheads and a tool i think they used to scrape the insides of hides – the tool has spots that were carved out for your fingers. The scraper is just a tad too big for my tiny hands – but I do think a woman made it for her own use.
A friend has 10 acres just a few miles north of Buckeye Lake – I spent a lot of time there, but she still hasn’t planted yet. Still – it’s hilly even there.. the further east you go the more the Appalachian foothills rise.
your place must be beautiful… thanks for forwarding the article.
Barbara Steever said:
I’m honored that you felt my words were good enough to quote. I only wish that USDA was actually listening at these sessions. It sems the only thing that has been accomplished is that instead of referring to us as stakeholders, they now call us “limited resource” farmers. However, they still don’t understand the meaning of “NO” as evidenced by Clifford’s response to Chuck Jolley, that there’s always room for compromise. As I said in my statement, the Bill of Rights is non negotiable.
Rady Ananda said:
you gave a powerful 3-minute speech, Barbara. It carried with me thru today. The message got thru loud and clear, I am sure, to the USDA.
They put this into effect in Australia. On another site where this article is posted, an Aussie bee farmer tells me the fines for violating NAIS are used to put the farmers out of business – then corporations scoop up the land for a song.
It appears to be window dressing for something more ominous than they admit.
I also heard that when the data was entered, the database contained 50 million more cattle than Aussie even has.
Thank you so much for work in this area. I’m hoping to rally urbanites behind the cause.
Barbara Steever said:
I’m also concerned about the land. NAIS has been set up so that you either give up your right to private property and live as a tenant on your land, or defy the system and have your property taken from you with onerous fines. Either way, you lose and they win. I keep wondering what it will take to get the ACLU interested in this. How many farms have to be lost before anyone else notices?
Rady Ananda said:
US citizens are amazingly compliant. I’ve been following the Amazonian resistance in Peru and the native resistance in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, the resistance is using weapons – blowing up oil wells.
both have been fighting for at least 3 years now – resisting corporatism.
I’ve also been following the land grab in Africa – this really is a battle of Big Biz vs. We the People.
I think about that rancher, Schumacher, who fought Tyson. The Crt of Appeals overturned a unanimous jury decision in his favor, and Tyson seized the property.
I suspect resistance will have to heat up before the ACLU or most Americans will even take notice.
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Walter Jeffries said:
The ACLU is not interested in NAIS. I have contacted them several times over the years. The told me that this is not a people issue. Just farmers. Perhaps if it was more of an urban issue they would be interested. I got the distinct impression that they didn’t consider it high enough profile to bring in funding.
Sugar Mountain Farm
in the mountains of Vermont
Rady Ananda said:
There’s no doubt in my mind that this is an urban issue as much as a rural farmer issue.
If our animals are tracked, then so are we. It also makes it that much easier to chip us. So, it’s EVERYONE’s issue.
but I understand that the ACLU must pick and choose its battles. Years ago we tried to get them interested in election fraud, but no go.
steve's wife said:
Did you know that history has many examples of govt making laws to protect their citizens from from perceived threats of disease or expanding their marketability?
1938 Nazi Germany made a law that required a certain segment of society considered undesireable and a possible cause of disease; the Jews, by having them register every piece of property they owned. We know how that turned out…the holocaust.
In the early 1930’s, Stalin declared the collectivization of all farms, no more private ownership, all belonged to the govt, that way they could assure their place in the world grain market. When the independent farmers said no, troops moved in, all grain was declared owned by the govt and 11 million citizens were starved to death or executed for eating grain grown on their own farms or died in concentration camps. The goal was reached because the the grain was sold on the world market, but at what cost?
Mussolini declares the fascist Italian govt owns all the cows. That may be why my grandparents on both sides came to America so they could own their own farms and cattle.