Measure opposed by proposed Tenn. bill
Some Seymour residents and Tennessee legislators are concerned about a program which would require tracking devices to be implanted in every farm animal and household pet in the country, at the expense of the owner.
When Penny and Mark Wisell heard about a bill which would quash the program, they took off for Capital Hill in Nashville last week, joining some 60 to 70 others who were also concerned about the program’s implications.
“I’m worried about my neighbors, and our future, and what effect this is going to have on other families that live on shoe strings already,” said Mark Wisell. “The cost would be prohibitive,” he said. “Plus it smells of Big Brother.”
“This will take away our freedom—it makes my chicken an outlaw, it makes me an outlaw,” said Wisell who called the program “a weird use of tax payers money.”
The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) was initiated in 2004 by the United States Department of Agriculture. While the program is currently voluntary, the agency’s strategic plan for the program calls for a phasing-in of mandatory requirements in 2008.
According to the USDA website, the goal of the NAIS program is to “provide animal health officials with the capability to identify all livestock and premises that have had direct contact with a disease of concern within 48 hours after discovery.”
House Bill 3297/Senate Bill 3258 is currently making its rounds in Nashville in opposition to this program. The bill would disallow any department of agriculture funds or any other state funds from being appropriated for the implementation of the NAIS program.
Representative Frank S. Niceley, who is sponsoring the bill, spoke with The Herald Wednesday about his opposition to the NAIS program as it has been presented.
“They’ve proposed a tracking system for animals right down to every cat, dog and parakeet,” said Niceley.
“What we’re proposing for Tennessee is to use the same metal tags that we’ve been using for years—they way we’ve always done this before,” said Niceley. The metal tags would cost mere pennies as opposed to the electronic chip which would cost $3, according to Niceley.
“We don’t like the mandatory element of this either,” said Niceley who suggested that the tracking system would “expose farmers to way too much liability.”
Another element of the proposed program calls for a $1,000 per day fine for non-compliance.
Besides the burden of the costs placed on farmers and pet owners, opponents of the program also point out the privacy issues tracking devices on their property.
Also, the bill’s text charges that “the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, composed primarily of large corporate producers and the makers and producers of animal identification equipment, lobbied the USDA to create the NAIS to supposedly protect U.S. citizens and their animals from disease.”
Niceley views this bill as a way to head off action by the federal government to implement NAIS. He said that while the advocates of the program have backed off before, he fears that it could be back on the table in the near future.
Niceley’s bill opposing NAIS, the Tennessee Small Farmer Protection Act, has been placed on the House Agricultural Committee’s calendar for Tuesday, April 4.
Information about the NAIS program can be found on the USDA website: www.usda.gov/nais/. Also, NoAnimalID.com/ and StopAnimalID.com/, provide information on the program.