This past week I had the dubious pleasure of speaking on a panel at the National Institute of Animal Agriculture ID Expo (the NGO pusher of NAIS) in Kansas City, Missouri, as the small producers representative on “Opportunities for Animal Identification.” How this occurred is a story in itself, but most important is to let everyone know what modus operandi will be used to bring NAIS to us.
Having been to two other NIAA ID Expos, the most glaring change was the attendance being way down. As a staunch opponent of NAIS and one who has been working full time to stop it for years now, this was a very pleasing sign.
They allowed me to speak on the condition that I not speak about NAIS, as they told me this was not what the conference nor the panel was about. This was at 1:25 and the panel started at 1:30 so at the last minute I had to edit what I planned to say. When I introduced myself, I explained that I was a major opponent of NAIS and Victor Valez had asked me to not speak about it and I promised him that I would be nice.
With the help of the question and answer segment of the panel discussion, I was able to say nearly all that I’d planned. Since I spoke as the representative of small producers engaged in direct sales, I stayed within that niche. I differentiated the philosophies and operations of small growers from those of industrialized ag, and drew the distinction between agribusiness and agriculture, explaining that we are not interested in the corporate agribusiness model. We have considered it and find it destructive to the well being of life overall.
Critically important to relate is that NAIS is dead…but not really. As in any good horror movie, the monster has super-psycho strength and just when it seems to be defeated, it rises up and attacks again. Remember, NAIS began as the National Food Animal Identification Plan, then became the United States Animal Identification Plan, and finally the National Animal Identification System. It will almost certainly not continue to be called NAIS, but instead dubbed ‘animal identification’, be all about ‘food safety’, ’social responsibility’ and ‘farm to fork’ initiatives. The hammers for enforcement will be big ones and constrain the ability to market and sell one’s products, and, should they get their way, attached to indemnity payments, subsidies, conservation programs and access to movement certificates, or health papers.
In other words, “market forces” will force compliance on those who wish to stay out of this onerous system. There will still be ‘premise id’, but it may be changed to ‘unique location identifier.’ There will still be electronic and group ID consisting of 15-character numbers, but it won’t be to ‘NAIS’ standards, (ahem), and there will still be tracking, but it will be referenced as the ‘historical pedigree’ or some similar nonsense. It won’t be called NAIS anymore, but it will be NAIS by a different name. Be prepared for a chorus from the disinformationalists proclaiming the death of the dreaded NAIS. A little twist on what Mark Twain said is appropriate, “Rumors of NAIS’ death have been greatly exaggerated”.
Those who wish to keep NAIS at bay must realize that all of the food safety bills in Congress, and particularly, HR 2749 which passed the House by an overwhelming margin, will codify ‘international standards’ under obligations to ‘international agreements’, and that means NAIS for everything. It will do nothing to improve food safety and everything to put the kaibosh on the fastest growing segment of agriculture, the local food movement. We must assail the Senate and the House with the message that real food safety lies in decentralized, unconsolidated and diverse food production and distribution.
As I told the attendees of the NIAA ID Expo, “There are two kinds of people, those who want to be left alone and those who won’t leave them alone. Small producers and their customers definitely want to be left alone”.