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Congress Takes a Shot at Family Farmers

Many parents were appalled when we saw on our television screens a video of workers abusing a downer cow with electric shocks because the cow was too sick to stand up. We were even more horrified to learn that meat from that cow had gone into lunches served by the federal School Lunch Program. The scandal at the Hallmark/Westland plant in Chino, Calif., has sparked interest in the current trend of securing local meat from sources that are grass-fed, organic and come from animals raised humanely. Our kids deserve the safest meat in their food. Sadly, Congress is now considering squashing such efforts to get local foods into the School Lunch Program.

In June, the House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee, at the behest of Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and David Obey (D-Wisc.), said it was considering a provision that would force schools to buy meat for the School Lunch program from sources enrolled in the federal government's National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The NAIS is hugely controversial among family farmers like me. The U.S. government wants us to inventory, identify and track the movement of all agriculture related animals. Step one is a premise registration where a federal ID number is assigned to our farm. The second step involves tagging each of our animals with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags. And finally, we must report to the government any planned movement of our animals.

These onerous and far-reaching conditions have spawned a revolt among many of us seeking to provide high quality, safe food for consumers and our communities...

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