Despite claims that its National Animal Identification System will be 'technology neutral,' the USDA is favoring radiofrequency identification (RFID) ear tags and implants. In April it made the tags part of the tuberculosis testing program for cattle. Of the eight identification devices USDA has approved, seven are RFID ear tags for cattle and the eighth is an implantable microchip for horses.
"This means that anyone, in any state, who requests a cattle TB test, may encounter the possibility of having the animal(s) permanently placed in NAIS, which openly contradicts the USDA's claims that the animal tracking system is voluntary at the federal level'," said Mary Zanoni of Farm for Life, an advocacy organization for small farmers.
The health risk of tuberculosis from cows is very small. The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service bovine TB factsheet gives the incidence of positive reactors to the test (positive reactors are not necessarily infected animals) at 0.02 percent, and notes that in 21st century America, humans catch the disease from other humans, not from cows.
The factsheet recommends the best defense against tuberculosis in cattle herds is to keep a closed herd, reproducing within the herd and not introducing cows from other farms or feedlots. The closed herds are common in family-scale herds. Large industrial operations constantly introduce animals from outside the original herd.
"This is yet another deceptive and underhanded tactic by USDA to force farmers into their bureaucratic and costly NAIS program. Dairy farmers are already dealing with skyrocketing costs of production. NAIS will not do anything to address animal disease and will only drive more family farmers out of business," said Paul Rozwadowski, a Wisconsin dairy farmer and chair of the National Family Farm Coalition's Dairy Subcommittee.
NAIS and animal identification do nothing to reduce the costs of reimbursing farmers for cattle destroyed when a cow has a positive reaction to the TB test. Other policies, such as limiting the reimbursement to 200 cows, can limit costs to the taxpayer. Corporate owners who maintain huge herds can seek private insurance to cover additional losses if so desired.
"Such a policy would encourage and reward the farmers who have those small and medium-sized closed herds that the USDA itself recommends as the best insurance against TB," said Dr. Zanoni.
The Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities, The Cornucopia Institute, and the National Family Farm Coalition oppose NAIS. Join them at http://poultrybookstore.com, www.cornucopia.org, and www.nffc.net.
APHIS factsheet on bovine TB --
-- Christine Heinrichs Author, How to Raise Chickens http://poultrybookstore.com http://poultrybookstore.com/
Contact: Christine Heinrichs, SPPA Publicity Director, Christine.firstname.lastname@example.org ,
Irene Lin, National Family Farm Coalition, email@example.com,
Mary Zanoni, 315-386-3199,
Mark Kastel: firstname.lastname@example.org , 608-625-2042.