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March 12, 2009

This is exactly the sort of thing I am talking about when I say that the new NAIS and COOL regulations will cause more headaches for smaller operators, and provide no obstacle to large vertically integrated animal producers and feedlots. You know, those smelly, disease filled, water table polluting shit factories that give animal agriculture a bad name.barcode
This op-ed ran in the New York Times on March 10…

AT first glance, the plan by the federal Department of Agriculture to battle disease among farm animals is a technological marvel: we farmers tag every head of livestock in the country with ID chips and the department electronically tracks the animals’ whereabouts.

For factory farms, the costs of following the procedures for the system would be negligible. These operations already use computer technology, and under the system, swine and poultry that move through a production chain at the same time could be given a single number. On small, traditional farms like my family’s, each animal would require its own number. That means the cost of tracking 1,000 animals moving together through a factory system would be roughly equal to the expense that a small farmer would incur for tracking one animal.

These ID chips are estimated to cost $1.50 to $3 each, depending on the quantity purchased. A rudimentary machine to read the tags may be $100 to $200. It is expected that most reporting would have to be done online (requiring monthly Internet fees), then there would be the fee for the database subscription; together that would cost about $500 to $1,000 (conservatively) per year per premise. I estimate the combined cost for our farm at $10,000 annually — that’s 10 percent of our gross receipts.
Imagine the reporting nightmare we would face each May, when 100 ewes give birth to 200 lambs out on pasture, and then six weeks later, when those pastures are grazed off and the entire flock must be herded a mile up the road to a second farm that we rent.
Add to that the arrival every three weeks of 300 chicks, the three 500-pound sows that will each give birth to about 10 piglets out in the pastures twice per year (and that will attack anyone who comes near their babies more fiercely than a junkyard pit bull), then a batch of 100 baby turkeys, and the free-roaming laying hens. Additional tagging and record-keeping would be required for the geese and guinea fowl that nest somewhere behind the barn and in the hedgerows, occasionally visiting the neighbors’ farms, hatching broods of goslings and keets that run wild all summer long.

So who would gain if the identification system eventually becomes mandatory, as the Agriculture Department has hoped? It would help exporters by soothing the fears of foreign consumers who have shunned American beef. Other beneficiaries would include manufacturers of animal tracking systems that stand to garner hefty profits for tracking the hundreds of millions of this country’s farm animals. It would also give industrial agriculture a stamp of approval despite its use of antibiotics, confinement and unnatural feeding practices that increase the threat of disease.

Follow the link for the full piece. Hayes is spot on. One almost wonders if the ID mandates were designed by the meat giants themselves. Throw in the proposed cow tax and they’d be the only game in town.

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From → Food Policy

One Comment
  1. we’d like to publish the comment you left here:
    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2009/02/spoiled-organic-and-local-so-2008
    in our next issue. Can you send me your name, city, and state, and verify that you, in fact, did submit the comment under vines and cattle?
    Thanks very much,
    Elizabeth Gettelman
    Managing Editor
    Mother Jones

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