Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Comment now on proposed NAIS rules

Mary Zanoni of Farm for Life sent this update on NAIS rules:

On Tuesday, January 13, 2009, the USDA published in the Federal Register a proposed rule that would make two elements of NAIS -- NAIS Premises ID and NAIS individual animal ID -- effectively mandatory in several USDA animal disease programs. This rule, if it goes into effect, would be an enormous step toward creating a fully mandatory NAIS for all U.S. livestock.

The proposed rule directly affects cattle, bison, sheep, goats, and swine. However, it will also bring a full NAIS closer for all species. Therefore, all owners of horses, poultry, and other species should also submit comments and urge their livestock/farming organizations to submit comments. Within a few days, Mary Zanoni of Farm for Life will send out a sample letter for people to consider as a basis for comments. The comment period is scheduled to close on March 16, 2009.

Commenting on this proposed rule is extremely important. Not only all animal owners, but also consumers of local/organic/grassfed foods, and everyone concerned with preserving a place for family farms in a world increasingly dominated by Industrial Agriculture, is urged to comment. Submit comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to to submit or view comments and to view supporting and related materials available
electronically; or by regular Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery. Please send two copies of your comment to Docket No. APHIS–2007–0096, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A–03.8, 4700, River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD
20737–1238. Please state that your comment refers to Docket No. APHIS–2007–0096.

In regard to advancing NAIS, the four most important aspects of the USDA/APHIS Jan. 13, 2009 rule are:

1. As of the effective date of the final rule, the NAIS Premises ID Number (PIN) would be the only form of PIN allowed for certain official uses. (Note on timing -- the comment period is open until March 16, 2009. Then USDA reviews the comments and at some point can issue a final rule. That date of issuance would be the effective date for the mandatory assignments of the NAIS Premises IDs. However, a large number of unfavorable comments might result in the postponement, or even retraction or cancellation, of the rule.)

2. Although the system announced in this proposed rule supposedly permits the continued use of the National Uniform Eartagging System (traditionally, metal tags) and a "premises-based numbering system," in fact, these systems would be used in the same way as NAIS Animal Identification Numbers. The older forms of eartags and individual IDs would all be connected into the NAIS Premises ID database through the Animal Identification Number Management System ("AINMS," the USDA system that keeps track of what individual animal identification number is assigned to what farm or ranch). In other words, under the system of this proposed rule, anytime a farmer/rancher has metal tags applied to livestock (such as for TB or brucellosis testing), the farm/ranch will be placed into the NAIS Premises ID system and the numbers on the tags will be tied to the farm/ranch through the USDA's AINMS system.

3. Some requirements are being added for official eartags and these new requirements might make it very difficult or even impossible to obtain metal tags instead of the NAIS tags. The additional requirements include a "U.S. shield" printed on each tag, and tags mustbe "tamper-resistant and have a high retention rate in the animal." The APHIS Administrator must approve all tags. The NAIS tags now available already meet these standards. It is not clear that metal tags have ever been judged by these standards, so it is possible that the APHIS Administrator could fail to approve metal and other non-NAIS tags. Also, tag manufacturers will have a clear self-interest in abandoning production of cheap metal tags in favor of expensive NAIS RFID tags, so non-NAIS forms of tags may quickly become extinct.

4. The addition of a definition of the AINMS to the animal-disease program rules in the Code of Federal Regulations is huge. Previously the AINMS has only been defined in the non-rule NAIS informational documents (Draft Strategic Plan, User Guide, Business Plan, etc.) so it did not have any defined legal status. Now this proposed rule adds a definition of the AINMS and also provides that eventually the AINMS will be used to tie all types of "official" tags -- not just the NAIS 15-digit tags -- to a NAIS registered premises. The proposed rule accomplishes essentially a mandatory system for the first two elements of NAIS -- NAIS premises ID and NAIS individual animal ID. The only difference from the original NAIS plan is that now the metal tags and other traditional forms of individual ID have become additional forms of numbering/tagging that are used as part of NAIS.

Note that even if your state has passed a law to keep NAIS "voluntary," that will not necessarily save you from this rule. The Federal Register notice specifically states: "All State and local laws and regulations that are in conflict with this rule will be preempted." (p. 1638.) However, if you are working to pass a state law limiting NAIS in the present legislative session, keep working -- such a law could still be very important. It shows the opposition of animal owners and consumers to NAIS, which may help get the rule postponed or rescinded. In addition, the question of whether this rule would pre-empt contrary state laws in all circumstances may someday be open to legal challenge. But for now, your best defense against NAIS is to make sure you comment on the proposed rule. Watch for Mary's sample letter to be posted in the next few days.

Mary Zanoni
P.O. Box 501
Canton, New York 13617

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