US Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chairwoman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, has inserted pro-NAIS provisions into the Agriculture Appropriations bill for 2009. According to her press release, the bill would require USDA to purchase meat products for the School Lunch Program from livestock premises registered with National Animal Identification System beginning in July 2009. This is a back-door method for mandating NAIS through the power of the purse strings. The bill also provides a total NAIS funding level of $14.5 million or about $4.8 million above 2008.
We must stop these provisions from going any further!
The full House Appropriations Committee will meet to discuss the Agriculture Appropriations bill on Thursday, June 26. After that, it will go to the full House. So we need everyone to call the Committee members and their own Representatives as soon as possible! We also need calls to the Senate Appropriations Committee, to keep them from following DeLauro's lead.
1) Call or fax your US Representative. You can look up who represents you at www.congress.org or call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or toll-free at 866-340-9281.
2) Call or fax the members of the House Appropriations Committee who come from your State. The members are listed at: http://appropriations.house.gov/members110th.shtml When you see a member who comes from your state, click on his or her name to get contact information.
3) Call or fax your Senator if he or she is on the Senate Appropriations Committee. The members are listed at: http://appropriations.senate.gov/members.cfm
With each person, ask to speak to the staffer who handles appropriations. If you get their voice mail, leave the following message, or something in your own words that makes the same points:
MESSAGE: My name is ____. I am a constituent [or live in your state, if you aren't in their district]. I am calling because the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee has inserted language requiring the School Lunch Program to only buy meat from farms registered in the National Animal Identification System. I am against NAIS, and I do not want it to be tied to school lunch programs. NAIS, which tracks live animals, will not improve food safety because most food safety problems start at the slaughterhouse and food processing facilities. Funding for NAIS, particularly any mandatory NAIS, needs to be stopped. Please call me back at _____.
When you talk to the staffer, be sure to make the same points as in the message, and expand on them with some of the talking points below.
For more information, contact the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance at email@example.com or 866-687-6452.
In addition to the message above, here are some more talking points about why the NAIS provisions in the Agriculture Appropriations bill should be taken out. Pick one or two to focus on, and put them in your own words!
* This bill uses the government's power to economically coerce farmers into NAIS. That is not a "voluntary" program.
* This bill throws good money after bad, supporting a program that is not sound economically or scientifically.
* USDA has presented no science to back up its claims that NAIS will address livestock diseases.
* The USDA has never completed a cost/benefit analysis to show that NAIS is worthwhile.
* NAIS will not improve food safety. The massive Hallmark/Westland beef recall this past year was caused by the slaughterhouse employees' failure to follow existing regulations for handling "downer" cows. Mandating NAIS on cattle producers will not make anybody obey the laws we already have.
* NAIS will not help Americans compete in the world market. If it is mandatory, or even adopted by most producers, those who participate will not get premiums for their meat.
* Pouring more money into the program is a waste of precious tax dollars that could be better spent on safety inspections at packing and processing plants, where most food contamination occurs.
* Using the school lunch program to force farmers into NAIS undermines the growing farm-to-school program, which helps children get fresh, local, and sustainably raised foods. Local farmers should not be forced into an unpopular program that has nothing to do with food quality or safety in order to provide food for our children.
* The claim that USDA has achieved 33% of its Premises Registration goal is wrong. USDA computes its percentage of premises registered based on farmers who answer the agriculture census. Hundreds of thousands of additional horse owners, families with a few chickens, suburbanites with a pet pot-bellied pig, and others like them are technically covered by NAIS, but USDA ignores them when it reports its supposed successes to Congress. The vast majority of people who will be impacted by NAIS either oppose it or are still unaware of it!
* NAIS has never been specifically approved by Congress. This massive program, which will impact millions of people, should be addressed through full and open debate, not snuck in through appropriations.
DeLauro's press release is posted at: http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/DeLauroSubMarkup06-19-08.pdf See pages 6-7 for discussion of the NAIS provisions in the bill.
DeLauro has supported tracking farms for some time. Her food safety bill from 2007 included tracking all food from its origin to consumer's plates. Her press release on the school lunch initiative states, "We will also strengthen Animal ID and the National School Lunch Program including language to provide market-based incentives to strengthen both the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and the National School Lunch Program."
The press release makes it clear that DeLauro supports moving the entire NAIS program forward: "The bill's report details specific implementation milestones to shine the spotlight on APHIS's delivery of NAIS. The Committee worked in consultation with the agency, and we largely derived these performance measures from the agency's own NAIS business plan. We are going to move well beyond tracking the number of premises registered and follow more closely how APHIS is using the money. The NAIS milestones include (1) 48-hour traceability standards for specific species; and (2) program administration deliverables."
The actual bill language is not yet available. We will send a follow up alert when it is.
This is going to be another hard fight to win. Several key committee members in both the House and the Senate support a mandatory NAIS, and will be glad for anything that moves us towards that. So we need everyone to call! Tell your friends and neighbors what is happening, and ask them to call also.
Let your voice be heard!
Action Alert: Agriculture Appropriations Bill Links NAIS to School Lunch Program!
Call Congress now!
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Posted June 24, 2008
Straight to the Source