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Organic Farmers Oppose Big Brother NAIS Animal Identification System

BARRE- A Massachusetts farmers group has asked the state Department of Agricultural Resources not to turn over data to the federal government identifying the location of poultry and livestock in the state.

The request is reflective of a division among farmers, some of whom, such as Richard W. Kimball, a veteran Spencer dairyman, believe the National Animal Identification System is a safeguard that protects their livelihood and investment.

The group opposing the system, the Northeast Organic Farming Association, has petitioned agricultural commissioner Douglas W. Petersen asking that he not provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture with data on the state's poultry and livestock.

While participation in the state-administered federal program is still voluntary, the Department of Agricultural Resources maintains that an efficient tracking system is needed as a result of the increase in the number of disease outbreaks reported globally. The USDA's goal is to have a nationwide system in place that will allow the successful tracking of diseased animals within 48 hours of any reported outbreak.

The Department of Agricultural Resources has been collecting information on premises with agricultural animals gleaned from a registration form and uploading it into the U.S. Department of Agriculture's database.

The form requests business name, address, contact person, business type, location, type of operation, and the number and variety of species at that location from bison to waterfowl.

Farms and businesses that do not want information now on file sent to a federal database must make that known to the Department of Agricultural Resources by Friday. To opt out of the federal database, animal owners must contact Joao Tavares by e-mail at, by mail at Joao Tavares, Department of Agricultural Resources, 251 Causeway St., Suite 500 Boston, MA 02114-2151, or by telephone at (617) 626-1719.

Those who are balking at filing the one-page registration form fear that the program eventually could become mandatory, and that they would be required to account for and identify every animal they own.

Currently, information is being gathered only on premises where poultry, livestock and other agricultural animals are kept. No information is being gathered on individual animals.

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