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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Promoting Common-sense Policies for Diversified Food Systems for Animals

Promoting common-sense policies for diversified food systems

We need your help to tell USDA not to impose new animal identification requirements!

Photo from Mother Earth News

The two upcoming meetings scheduled by USDA to discuss animal ID are less than two weeks away. If you plan to attend, first register with USDA & then let us know by emailing Details on those meetings are below.

No matter where you live, you can let the USDA know how you feel about a mandatory identification system by submitting online comments by July 31; or, if you are involved with a nonprofit organization that has a stake in this issue, encourage them to sign on to an organizational letter in opposition (see Action Item #3, below).

As we alerted you recently, the agency's stated purpose with these meetings is to discuss the Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) program and to get feedback from producers on how it is (and is not) working. The agency's documents for the meetings, however, reflect a desire to push for a much more extensive program, with electronic (RFID) identification and intra-state requirements, much like the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) we helped defeat more than 10 years ago.

RFID and NAIS-like programs would disproportionately burden small-scale and pasture-based producers, in the name of profits for meat packers and technology companies (See "More Information," below).

ACTION ITEM #1: Attend a Meeting

Nebraska, July 18, 2017

Embassy Suites Omaha Downtown
555 S. 10th Street
Omaha, NE 68102
(402) 346-9000

Texas, July 20, 2017

Dallas/Fort Worth Marriott Hotel & Golf Club at Champions Circle
3300 Championship Pkwy.
Fort Worth, TX 76177
(817) 497-3016

You can register for the meeting at

Please also email so that we can coordinate with you.

ACTION ITEM #2: Submit Written Comments

The deadline for written comments is July 31. Comments can be submitted at

Sample comment for consumers:

Extensive new Animal ID requirements could have significant impacts on our agricultural and food system.

I buy my food from small farmers who would be particularly hard hit by the cost and burdens associated with electronic ID. I do not want to see the farmers who provide food for my family and me burdened by requirements for the benefit of those who are exporting to other countries. A local food system is vital to our health, economy, and food security, and I urge USDA to prioritize the needs of small farmers.

Sample comment for producers:

Any action by USDA should be limited to the question of whether young cattle should be required to be identified when crossing state lines. That is the issue that USDA committed to reviewing when it adopted ADT just a few years ago.

I oppose any requirement for electronic ID because it will be disproportionately expensive and burdensome for small producers like me.

[Add any comments or experience you have with animal ID requirements. Have you shipped cattle or poultry across state lines? Have you been involved with a traceback? What would be the impact on you if young cattle (under 18 months) had to have individual identification? What would be the impact if electronic ID were required --- how much would the cost of the tags and readers impact your profit margin? If you live in Michigan, which already requires electronic ID, what have been the impacts?]

ACTION ITEM #3: Organizational Sign-On Letter

FARFA developed a sign-on letter for nonprofit organizations to submit jointly as comments to USDA. Join groups such as R-CALF, National Family Farm Coalition, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Food & Water Watch, Weston A. Price Foundation, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, and Missouri Rural Crisis Center in our joint comments to the agency!

If you are involved in an organization that supports independent ranchers, sustainable agriculture, local food systems or other related missions, please use these links to review or sign on to the letter before our July 24 deadline:




NAIS history:

ADT history:

Why are we so concerned? The idea of a comprehensive animal ID program may sound good. But consider this:

  • It's too expensive. The profit margins for most livestock producers are tiny. A NAIS-type program means not only buying RFID tags (which are more expensive than the traditional metal or plastic ones), but having the infrastructure to properly place the tags, read the tags, and manage the data. 
  • It doesn't address animal disease. Traceability is part of being able to control and limit the spread of disease --- but it does nothing to actually address disease. The real focus needs to be on prevention If the government and industry spent even a fraction of the time that they have spent on NAIS on addressing overcrowding in feedlots, poor nutrition and the overuse of drugs, and preventing imports from countries with outbreaks, we would have far healthier animals and less risk of disease in this country. But those things cost the industry money and limit their international markets, so they'd rather focus on tagging and tracking animals.
  • It's about money. The real reason the industry players want electronic ID and tracking is to boost their own profits. The first time around, it was about exports to South Korea and Japan --- because, with a 100% traceability program, exporters have greater leverage to claim that countries must open their borders to our products. This time, they're talking about exporting to China. Not to mention the profits to be had from selling tens of millions of electronic tags, or from managing the massive databases that would be part of the system. Multiple companies and trade organizations stand to make a lot of money from the program --- at the expense of the vast majority of farmers and ranchers.
We don't need every animal to have an electronic tag in its ear and its information entered in a database. What we need are programs that support independent producers, a vibrant competitive market, and healthy animal management to prevent disease. Unfortunately, it appears that we will have to fight this battle all over again, and we need your help to succeed!

We need to change the rules that favor Big Agribusiness and Big Food over small-scale, local producers. Please consider joining or making a donation to FARFA to support our work to help independent family farmers and protect a healthy and productive food supply for consumers. |

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