Not Just Us Small Farmers

It’s good to see that it’s not just us small farmers who are up in arms about the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The NY Times has an excellent story today about large western ranchers who are resisting participation in it.

Mr. Platt said he already did all he could to fight epidemics. He does not bring any outside animals into his herds, and he happily staples on metal tags that identify animals to help with brucellosis control. But as he drove his pickup from grasslands into dense thickets of piñon pine on this highland desert that requires 100 acres per cow, he explained why he thought the federal plan was wrongheaded.

Mr. Platt called the extra $2 cost of the electronic tags an onerous burden for a teetering industry and said he often moved horses and some of his 1,000 head of cattle among three ranches here and in Arizona. Small groups of cattle are often rounded up in distant spots and herded into a truck by a single person, who could not simultaneously wield the hand-held scanner needed to record individual animal identities, Mr. Platt said. And there is no Internet connection on the ranch for filing to a regional database.

Looking over the 22,000 acres that his cattle share with elk, pronghorns and mountain lions and where animals can easily disappear, Mr. Platt scoffed at the idea of reporting every death, as animal health officials prefer.

“They can’t comprehend the vastness of a ranch like this,” he said of federal officials. “They don’t appreciate what is involved logistically.”

Beyond the individual ranchers profiled, the story nicely summarizes many of the program’s aspects that we find so troubling.

Underlying the opposition is the fragile economics of ranches and small farms, which are already disappearing. The extra cost of radio tags, scanners and filing reports when animals change premises would be crushing, some smaller producers say.

“My main beef is that these proposed rules were developed by people sitting in their offices with no real knowledge of animal husbandry and small farms,” said Genell Pridgen, an owner of Rainbow Meadow Farms in Snow Hill, N.C., which rotates sheep, cattle, pigs, turkeys and chickens among three properties and sells directly to consumers and co-ops.

“I feel these regulations are draconian,” Ms. Pridgen said, “and that lobbyists from corporate mega-agribusiness designed this program to destroy traditional small sustainable agriculture.” Paul Hamby, owner of Hamby Dairy Supply in Maysville, Mo., and a vocal opponent of the plan, said, “It is very much an economic and class warfare issue.”

“Fifty years ago,” Mr. Hamby said, “hundreds of thousands of farms raised hogs, and now very few players have control of the market. I believe one of the reasons for this plan is to consolidate the cattle industry.”

Go read the whole thing. It is excellent.

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