Farmers Say No to Animal Tags

US - In its Michigan test, the National Animal Identification System gets a rude reception from small farmers who say it invades their privacy.
calendar icon 20 December 2006
clock icon 2 minute read

The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is a program initiated by the federal government to attach a radio frequency identification device (RFID) to each of the approximately 40 million cows, sheep, chickens, goats, pigs, horses, and other animals on 1.4 million U.S. farms, enabling regulators to quickly track and respond to mad cow disease, bioterrorism, and other such calamities.

The program is billed as "voluntary" by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), but that term is used about as loosely as a staff sergeant's call for volunteers. Already there is talk that states failing to enforce NAIS could lose USDA funding for certain programs, and that farmers whose premises and animals aren't registered could encounter trouble should their animals be shipped out of state and thus be deemed part of "interstate commerce."

Trying to determine exactly what is happening around the country in response to the program is difficult, in part because the USDA has several times changed its timelines and rules (such as whether the program, which began in 2005, is voluntary or not), and the states have done likewise. Farmers have been further upset because they say some states have provided the USDA with information on individual farms collected under state disease prevention programs. They worry that the RFID tags can store large amounts of information, which can then be broadcast to special scanners or even to satellites, enabling government overseers to monitor the farmers via their animals.

Source: Business Week

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