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For immediate release please.
LARGEST LIVESTOCK TAX INCREASE IN HISTORY!!
The most expensive government tax in history to be levied on livestock producers is being planned at this very minute. We are told it is absolutely necessary . . . but, it isn't!
This national surveillance project orchestrated by the Department of Agriculture is rapidly gearing up. For over a year numerous articles, related full color page ads, and public town hall meetings, called "listening" sessions, have been held. (Some offer free steak dinners if you will just come listen.) Most information is presented by employees of the state or federal government and is completely slanted toward a soon-to-be compulsory, 100% National Animal Identification System (NAIS).
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., introduced two bills that would amend the Animal Health Protection Act to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to establish an electronic nationwide livestock-identification system to enhance the Department of Agriculture's response to outbreaks of livestock disease. The main goal is for the USDA to be able to trace, within 48 hours, the complete historic abode of all livestock from birth to slaughter.
Although we all know the true cost of any government program is impossible to totally identify, here are some serious numbers to consider. During the 2004 fiscal year USDA allocated $18.8 million to NAIS. The budget request for 2005 was $33 million. At this time think tank sessions are in progress to develop the rules and regulations right down to the fines and sentencing to be exacted on those who try to choose noncompliance.
Would 48-hour animal identification capabilities be a good thing? Some say yes. Some people who have heard the government's point of view see this as a no-brainer, life or death, do or die, and what are we waiting for? It is presented to the "listening" audiences as something that WILL happen. . . .no one can stop this program.
The NAIS will involve an electronic chip/button placed in every critter's ear which must be readable by special computers before any cattle can change ownership or locations. For surveillance, a premises registration of every farm, dairy, and ranch in the USA will be required to enforce the rules. Computer equipment will be mandatory to read the ID numbers inside the ear. Vague estimates are presented of the costs to all livestock marketing auctions, feed lots, processing plants, and every individual livestock business. Even though millions of out-of- pocket dollars are required to become nationally compliant, no promises are being offered that cattle values will increase as a result.
Many smaller livestock auctions believe they will be forced to terminate their businesses rather than purchase the required NAIS computer systems and employ skilled technicians for operation. Others are projecting that sale commission fees could be forced to double considering the added expenses of NAIS.
Today cattle prices are the highest in history. At the same time articles are being written indicating that the nation is falling behind in food safety and technology. The true facts reveal that the USA cattle industry is the world pioneer and leader with USDA meat inspection. Safety and food quality are the proven world trade mark for this great nation. As I read articles promoting NAIS it would appear as if we butcher steers hanging from trees and scald hogs in the Walmart parking lot. It just ain't so! If it isn't broke, don't hire the government to fix it.
To legally enforce federal NAIS program compliance, state rights are being trampled, changed and destroyed. Legislation is being introduced and enacted at state levels to provide smooth moving for federal control. Don't assume the non agricultural elected lawmakers with little livestock experience will be aware of the possible costs to livestock producers.
We are told there are about 100,000,000 cattle in the USA. These cattle are bought and sold by the thousands daily. A fully operational NAIS program will require equal computer entries. As each critter changes premises (pastures) or ownership a new computer entry is required. As a steer changes owners from the breeder to a stocker, backgrounder, trader, feed lot and finally a processor, the computer entries could easily reach a half billion per year.
What is the government's record in the economy of identification? The USA Census is almost an exact parallel to NAIS. The USA 2000 census recorded 295,919,428 people. The budget for the year 2000 census was $6.5 billion or $56 per house. The frugality that helped keep this cost so "economical" is the fact that 67% of the census reports were returned by mail, and, of course, postage is free for the Census Bureau. The current projected budget for the 2010 census is $11 billion or $72 per house. (Postage will still be free in 2010.)
With the buying and selling of all cattle the number of computer entries for one year of fully operational NAIS will be equal or larger in number to the 2000 census. Unfortunately, unlike the USA census, every livestock producer, dealer, owner and marketer in the nation will share the costs. The government will only carry part of the load. Animal owners will pay the main part of the cost, one way or the other.
If the cost of NAIS comes in at $6 - $11 billion per year will the program be considered for termination? What other government programs have been reduced or terminated that you recall? Do cattle producers want to roll over and play dead as this pollyannaish plan is fine tuned? Is this a fair price to pay for the possibility of one more "mad cow" appearance? If the census example isn't a fair way to estimate the annual cost, what other government budget could be used to relieve our fears?
These numbers only deal with USA cattle. The USDA ads confess that the proposed system includes plans also for bison, swine, sheep, goats, horses, poultry, deer, elk, llamas, and alpacas. What about moose, zoo animals and ground hogs? Let's not leave anyone out. As we look at this larger picture, perhaps, triple the census budget is the real cost.
Commingling is a compliance concern. It is factored into the enforcement equation. If potentially infected animals have been commingled at a cattle show, livestock auction, county fair, or feed lot this would create thousands of new numbers for the 48 hour documentation. If animals move through several commingling events then separate in different directions, the numbers would go up to many thousand that could become quarantined at the different premises in one foul swoop.
If Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) appears to be an unavoidable future encounter, why not spend a few billion on developing a BSE vaccine? The wonderful success of the USDA in dealing with brucellosis, scabies, anthrax and screw worm elimination is a global medical miracle. Past history proves that the USDA can function and deal directly with major livestock disease problems very successfully.
Considering all the great leaders and employees of the USDA, and all the honorable intentions they have of completely protecting us, the NAIS program is logistically unpractical. Just because we are enjoying the highest cattle prices in history and may be celebrating with a few bright candles on our cake. . . . . don't let the government turn this pleasant party into a 5- alarm fire!
Links to other NAIS related articles:
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