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I've got a thorn in my side. And I'm gonna be bad and call out another blogger. Scaredhuman. She's been part of a small group who has pushed a misinformation campaign - quite successfully - about Rosa DeLauro's Food Safety Modernization Act (H.R.875). I've got it firsthand from Rosa DeLauro's office that the bill isn't moving (i.e. it won't pass). I don't know WHY they have done this. But they have reached far and wide and their lies are being spread by many as truth. Weren't we supposed to be the reality-based community here??

There are two REAL issues going down that DO deserve our attention. One - real food safety problems (can anyone say "peanut butter"?) and the bill that DOES have a chance of passing, Dingell's bill H.R.759. Two - the National Animal ID System. If you want a reason to panic - a real reason - that's it. It's a bad thing and MANY Democrats support it. And today is the deadline for sending in comments to the USDA. Do so here.

Details below. (P.S. I swear I won't delete this diary, sorry for doing that this weekend - i can explain)

NAIS first, then food safety.

The National Animal ID System is part of an international attempt to get all nations to do something of this sort. The basic idea is: our export markets are super-duper important and so we need to tag every animal and keep them in a database and track all of their movements, and then we can track disease within 48 hours after it happens and stomp it out.

In other words, we aren't doing this for Americans. We are doing this for our export markets. And we're even requiring pet owners (horses, pigs, chickens) to tag their animals and report ALL animal movements (i.e. taking a horse on a trail ride or to a competition) so we can export food to the world. So we can continue to make cheap, shitty, federally subsidized food and then send it all over the world to undercut farmers in other countries by selling those countries' people inferior but cheaper food. NOT GOOD.

Last week the House Ag Committee had a hearing on NAIS and I hate to say it but I sided more with the Republicans who thought this was an invasion of privacy and too costly than with the Democrats who were gung-ho for this.

There are several small farmers who have been vocal about the effect this will have on their farms (like this farm here who produces sustainable goat milk soaps and loves their goats more than most people love their children, or this one featured in an NY Times op ed last week). The NYT article estimates that NAIS will cost her farm $10,000 per year - 10% of her farm's gross receipts.

What's important to remember here is that the majority of farms in the U.S. are small (38.7% are below 50 acres, and another 30% are 50-179 acres) and these farms (mostly) aren't making money. Adding costs and work to their already heavy load will put a lot of them under. At the same time that we are calling for more small farms, the government is promoting a program that will put many of these farms out of business.

I had a great comment left in a recent diary that I'd like to share:

We've lived eons without NAIS.  

NAIs requires extensive paper work filled out everytime your animal moves off the farm, even if it is your daughter showing her pony.  It also requires ugly tags or markings.  Industrial farms have office staffs that can handle this but the small farmer has to add it to an already overpacked and tiring work day.

One plan I had for my farming was to pack up a pair of Royal Palm turkeys in a good sized dog crate and bring them to the farmers market this spring to take orders for turkeys come fall. With NAIS, I'd have to fill out and mail the forms or face serious fines each time I took them to market (not to sell or even get pet -- just to attract passing potential buyers and give the birds an outing which they like) Frankly, I wouldn't do it if required to do the paper work too. And kids would enjoy seeing my birds and my birds would enjoy seeing the kids.  And they are beautiful birds.  I don't want them wearing ugly tags.  And we won't even start to talk about putting a tag on my big thoroughbred horse.

We have trouble with crime too.  Why not put tags on all people and require them to fill out forms everytime they leave the house?

Tracking animals is a bad substitute for using sound farming practices.

Proof of the hypocrisy about NAIS came in the form of hearing testimony from the House Ag Committee hearing last week. Most speakers called for mandatory NAIS. The guy from the USDA said that we need to be able to track down animal disease in a way we can't now. His example was bovine tuberculosis:

For example, of the 199 positive cases of bovine tuberculosis identified in the United States between late 2003 and early 2008, over 84 percent of the animals did not have official USDA individual identification.  As a result, USDA and State investigative teams spent substantially more time and money in conducting tracebacks, including an expanded scope of an investigation to identify suspect and exposed animals.  The average time spent conducting a traceback involving 27 recent bovine tuberculosis investigations was 199 days.  This is simply not acceptable.

Yet, guess what? We HAD an animal ID system in place for most of these cases and - surprise! - it didn't work. The R-CALF speaker said:

In its attempt to prevent the introduction of bovine tuberculosis (TB) and brucellosis into the U.S. cattle herd from Mexican cattle imports, USDA requires all Mexican cattle imported into the U.S. to be individually identified with a permanent brand or a numbered eartag.   However, USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) reported in 2006 that of the 272 bovine TB cases detected during the previous five years by U.S. slaughter surveillance, 75 percent (205) originated in Mexico, and these cases were detected in 12 U.S. states.

Wait, so the USDA is advocating for something that we already know doesn't work? And - the REALLY big point here - is that if we have limited money and resources to put into food safety (as we do), the best use of our money is definitely prevention, and then testing and inspection. For example, let's look at mad cow:

Prevention: We currently have loopholes in place that will allow for the spread of mad cow. Pigs can eat cows and cows can eat pigs. And downer cows under the age of 30 months can be used in livestock feed, even though mad cow HAS been found in cows under the age of 30 months before.

Testing: We test 0.1% of cows for mad cow. Other countries test many more and Japan tests every cow. And - in case a company wants to export beef to Japan and test every cow in order to do so - we forbid them!!! If we have mad cow in this country, what are the chances we'll find it before it spreads?

So imagine we've got a big database with the ID of every cow in the U.S. and all of their movements. How likely is it - if we are allowing mad cow to potentially spread in livestock feed and we test 0.1% of cows for mad cow - that we would find mad cow before it spreads. And then after the fact, after months or years of mad cow spreading through our country's cattle and beef, we'd be able to find all the sick cows in 48 hours with our fancy, expensive animal ID system?? That's ridiculous. Put your resources into testing the darn animals in the first place and preventing the causes and spread of disease!!!

If you agree with me on this, please take action TODAY.

The rumors I've heard are that H.R. 875 will ban backyard gardening (it won't), it will kill all small farms (it won't) and farmers markets (it won't) and that Monsanto is behind it (it isn't). I was particularly shocked to hear that a farmer at my market who isn't very political got a phone call from some woman who was frantic, telling him all of this stuff.

I'd like to see any bill that passes given an exemption to very small farms, particularly those that don't engage in interstate commerce. I will quote Michael Pollan on this:

The fact is that decentralizing our food system doesn’t guarantee food safety but it does guarantee when there are problems, they will be contained, and they will not go national.

In other words, let's tackle the very big problem that we have right now FIRST - the companies that sell to many states like the peanut corporation in the case of the peanut butter salmonella thing. Because it's these huge national food safety outbreaks that our the biggest problem.

I always say the best check on food safety for small farms is that the farmers eat their own food. If someone is going to get sick, it'll probably be the farmer. That's also a reason why the farmer won't store his food with mold and rat droppings like the Peanut Corporation of America did in this case. If you saw the CEO of PCA before Congress, you know that he refused to eat his own peanuts.

So - H.R.875 isn't perfect - it doesn't distinctly say that small farms who don't sell across state lines are exempt - but it's also NOT GOING TO PASS. H.R.759 is the one that's moving through the Energy and Commerce Committee. Waxman's the chairman and he doesn't support splitting the FDA into two halves (food and drugs) which H.R.875 calls for, and that's why that bill isn't going anywhere most likely. So check out H.R.759 - you can find info on both bills here.

Originally posted to OrangeClouds115 on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 03:19 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  i received this in an e-mail today (13+ / 0-)

    it seems to fit here admirably.....

    Radio Chip Animal Identification Would Do ALL Harm To Our Real Food Safety, And No Good

    It would be too easy to blame the recent peanut panic on one criminal corporation owner, who KNOWINGLY shipped Salmonella contaminated product. But before that it was millions of pounds of ground beef, and before that tomatoes all over the country, and on and on. And when you ask where is all this horrible filth coming from, with a over a million cases of Salmonella in the U.S. alone every year, the answer is self-evident. It's the huge factory farms that overflow with seas of untreated animal waste, that then spill into our food supply, including through our agricultural plant crop fields.

    We have a lot of work to do to clean up this giant mess, but the first thing we have to do is STOP a lunatic boondoggle being pushed by these same corporate interests, to force radio computer chip implanting of literally every farm animal in the country, EXCEPT on their own factory farms. It is absolutely nothing but a further attempt to drive small family farms out of business, who in fact are our safest source of reliably clean food now.

    The proposed National Animal Identification System (NAIS) would force even the smallest healthy farms to buy expensive new computer tracking equipment, and potentially would subject them to gestapo-like tactics by the USDA if they are in even slight technical non-compliance. And all this just to fatten the pockets of the RFID chip manufacturers, and to make it LOOK like something is being done to make our food safer.

    The special one click action page below will send your personal message to all your members Congress and also directly to the U.S.
    Department of Agriculture who is trying to rush this thing through without adequate scrutiny.

    Stop NAIS Action Page:

    This action is especially urgent because the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry is holding a hearing on NAIS implementation on March 11, and many farm activists fear the plan is to push it out for a full vote in Congress faster than a greased pig, before we the people have a meaningful chance to speak out.

    You may not have a House member on that particular subcommittee, but you can pressure your own House member to tell they colleagues on it that there is massive constituent pressure against NAIS. For the especially mobilized on the action page above there is a link to the phone numbers for those on the subcommittee, because they are in fact your representative as an American citizen if they sit on it.

    Below are some more extensive truth points you can select from in drafting your comments or on the phone, again linked to from the action page above.

    NAIS was designed by NIAA (the National Institute of Animal Agriculture), a corporate consortium consisting of Monsanto, industrial meat producers such as Cargill and Tyson, and surveillance companies such Viatrace, AgInfoLink, and Digital Angel. The NAIS scheme fits agribusiness, biotech, and surveillance companies to a T:

    1. They are already computerized, and they engineered a corporate

    loophole: If an entity owns a vertically integrated, birth-to-death factory system with thousands of animals (as the Cargills and Tysons do), it does not have to tag and track each one but instead a herd is given a single lot number.

    2). NAIS will only be burdensome and costly (fees, tags, computer equipment, time) to small farmers which helps push them out of business, thus leaving more market to giant agribusiness.

    1. Agribusiness wants to reassure export customers that the US meat industry is finally cleaning up its widespread contamination. NAIS would give that appearance ... without incurring the cost of a real cleanup.
    1. NAIS will allow total control over the competition: Owners of even a single chicken would be required to register private information, the Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates of their 'premise'

    and if any animal leaves its 'premise', the owner will be required to obtain an ID number for it and have the animal microchipped. All information, including 24 hour GPS surveillance would be fed into a vast corporate data bank, allowing for ease of false slaughter to hide true problems or to substitute biotech's genetically engineered animals.

    1. NAIS may allow plundering of farmers through required DNA samples:

    DNA samples would be invaluable to Monsanto and biotech corporations genetically engineering animals. Farmers who raise heritage breeds would have no say in how their distinct DNA would be used and to the sole profit of biotech companies.

    1. The advantage for the surveillance companies is obvious:

    Compulsory tagging of 6 million sheep, 7 million horses, 63 million hogs, 97 million cows, 260 million turkeys, 300 million laying hens,
    9 billion chickens, and untold numbers of bison, alpaca, quail, and other animals -- and new animals being born, means a massive self-perpetuating market.

    Please take action now to stop this insanity. Our health and our lives depend on it.

    Stop NAIS Action Page:

    The health claims for NAIS are a sham though fear of disease is used to advance it. NAIS does not touch the contaminated source of E.coli, salmonella, listeria, mad cow, and common meat-borne diseases - the inherently unhealthy practices (mass crowding, growth stimulants, feeding regimens, rushed assembly lines, poor sanitation, etc.) of industrial-scale meat operations. Upton Sinclair's "Jungle" all over again. NAIS will do nothing to stop these practices. Moreover, tracking ends at the time of slaughter, yet it's from slaughter onward that most spoilage occurs. But NAIS does not trace any contamination after slaughter.

    The self-serving Agribusiness NAIS plan distracts from their contaminatory practices, while targeting hundreds of thousands of small farms, homesteaders, organic producers, hobbyists ... and maybe even you. NAIS's purpose is to advance corporate monopoly over all food in the US. And with it, they have laid the ground work.
    Kissinger said if you control food, you can control people. This immense corporate plan to control of our food supply and eliminate our independent farmers is, at it heart, the most severe threat possible to our democracy itself.

    Please take action NOW, so we can win all victories that are supposed to be ours, and forward this alert as widely as possible.

    Liberal/Blades 2012
    The hippies had it right all's about time...the culture as a whole sent out a big, wet, hemp-covered apology.MMorford

    by RiaD on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 03:27:46 PM PDT

    •  About NAIS: (9+ / 0-)

      Agreed, it is stupid. And harmful to small farmers: but big government has never in my lifetime cared about small farmers, only about Agribusiness & their payoffs...oops, I mean campaign contributions.

      No, what pisses me off is that meat processor in Kansas.  They exported the bulk of their beef to Japan.  After mad cow disease was discovered here, the Japanese government asked them to use the "gold standard" test on all their meat.

      The company was willing--even eager!--to do so.  They wanted to preserve their major market, and also to prove that their beef was safe.

      Under El Chimpo, the USDA categorically refused to let them do so.

      I don't have the links immediately to hand (& dinner is on the stove) but if you want you can look it up in the NYT archives.

      It's just...the hypocrisy is beyond incredible.  It is mind-killing.

      GOP: Turning the U.S. into a banana republic since 1980

      by Youffraita on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 03:53:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  These proposals smell like BS to me (11+ / 0-)

    If anyone reading is in Texas, check that meat you just bought (hopefully before you cook it) at HEB.
    Beef will say "product of Canada, the US or Mexico".
    Lemme guess. The US will be the only ones tagging/ tracking their meat.

    My opinion is that this is a direct hit on small farms and it's intentional. These proposals can't & won't contain anything. And as long as I'm going out on that limb, I wonder if the HSUS/ PETA lobbyists are anywhere in all this.

    "Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight." Albert Schweitzer

    by bitchinabluestreak on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 03:30:22 PM PDT

    •  canada testified in the hearing (7+ / 0-)

      I didn't really read what they had to say bc it was in an obnoxious format. I started to read it but saw they were advocating their cow tracking system as a way to prevent mad cow and I just started laughing... Canada's had several cases of mad cow and at least 1 or 2 of their mad cows then came into the U.S. So obviously their tracking system doesn't work too well.

      •  I thought that I had read something like that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It's been some time ago and since I couldn't cite the articles, didn't think it would be a great idea to try & give as an example.

        We have our hands full right here with US produced goods (exactly the instances in your diary). They can't keep up with those, so how could we be expected to believe that they could properly monitor foreign sources?

        Further, there would be no shortage here, so once again, it's all about profit.

        "Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight." Albert Schweitzer

        by bitchinabluestreak on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 09:28:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I don't understand your argument... (0+ / 0-)


    In other words, we aren't doing this for Americans. We are doing this for our export markets. And we're even requiring pet owners (horses, pigs, chickens) to tag their animals and report ALL animal movements (i.e. taking a horse on a trail ride or to a competition) so we can export food to the world.

    If it is part of an international effort, as you say just prior to this, then it's not just a one-sided benefit. Please help. :)

    Time lost is always a disadvantage that is bound in some way to weaken him who loses it. -Clausewitz

    by Malachite on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 03:34:45 PM PDT

  •  As a life-long horse owner,,,, (7+ / 0-)

    NAIS sucks.  There is no legitimate reason for this program.  None.  We have tracking procedures already in existence and they work very well.

    The loopholes in NAIS for factory farms make it even worse.

    And I am particularly ashamed of the breed registries that are supporting this crap - yes AQHA, I am talking about you.  Can you say corporate whores?  Yeah, I thought you could.  You guys stopped having anything to do with horses decades ago.  You're all about the money, and nothing else.

    "But your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore"--Prine 4240+ dead Americans. Bring them home.

    by Miss Blue on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 03:36:29 PM PDT

  •  I'm getting backyard chickens in the next (4+ / 0-)

    month or so.  I would only have four, at the most.  Would they need to be tagged under NAIS?

  •  You deleted a diary this weekend? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OrangeClouds115, RiaD

    What was it?  I'm now curious!

    Also, under this proposal, will we be required to tag humans who act like animals?

  •  I'm not for NAIS as it currently stands... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    IF compliance were really simple, really easy and really cheap - if all you had to do was have a vet inject a (non-sarcoma-causing) capsule containing an RFID chip in a standard location, and the cost of it were subsidized so you'd pay, say, a dollar per animal...

    I don't think I have an issue with the concept. The details make it clear that this is a giant clusterfuck probably designed to kill off small agribusiness and benefit Republican friends and contributors, but the idea of a national or even international tracking system for food animals does not sound foolish to me. Needful? Maybe not.

    Revenge is a dish best served with mayonnaise, and those little cheesy things on sticks. -- Osric the Loopy

    by Shaviv on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 03:59:42 PM PDT

    •  We already have a national tracking system. (5+ / 0-)

      I hauled livestock - nothing meant to be eaten gets moved without knowing where it came from, where it's going, what it ate, what route it took to slaughter, etc.

      And it works.  NAIS is completely unnecessary, counterproductive, intrusive, and meant solely to kill small farms.

      "But your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore"--Prine 4240+ dead Americans. Bring them home.

      by Miss Blue on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 04:30:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oh this is really good here... (3+ / 0-)

    on your site. You detail the testimony nicely. The R-CALF speaker Max Thornberry sounds like a true hero.

    Time lost is always a disadvantage that is bound in some way to weaken him who loses it. -Clausewitz

    by Malachite on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 04:02:46 PM PDT

  •  We're on the same side (6+ / 0-)

    Orange Clouds, great diary on NAIS, thanks!!  I wish you'd used different words in your title and opening, though.  I don't agree with the panic that's happened over HR 875, mostly because it's unlikely to move forward (a bad bill that sits in committee isn't worth spending a lot of effort on).  In contrast, HR 759 is a bad bill that is much more likely to move forward.  But I'm also sure that ScaredHuman did not purposefully mislead anyone, and that she genuinely cares about what happens with our farms and food supply.  We can disagree on how big of a threat HR 875 is, and even be really frustrated with each other, without it coming to saying people are lying.

    Support small farms! Go to

    by judith2007 on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 04:20:35 PM PDT

  •  not all democrats are liberals (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Miss Blue, OrangeClouds115, RiaD, martini

    as I learned to my great chagrin....a whole bunch are libertarians and when scratched turn into free market reactionaries. I tend to worry, perhaps overmuch, about restrictions placed on farm food prep and storage, but know first hand exactly how clean and proper those activities have to be already....putting any further burdens on small farmers would be a mistake.

    sometimes the beau geste is the only option.

    by farmerchuck on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 05:07:31 PM PDT

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