The USDA has announced that NAIS is being reborn as a new, flexible system, http://www.aphis.usda.gov/traceability/. That announcement has been greeted with enthusiasm, such as this article in the New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/05/business/05livestock.html.
However, the USDA may be changing NAIS in name only. Mary Zanoni, founder of Farm for Life, http://www.farmforlife.org/, and a tireless critic, examined the USDA Fact Sheet only to find that it indicates few changes.
"Premises ID will be mandatory in all disease programs," she reports. "For chickens, everybody who is in NPIP or who has to get testing to show chickens is in a 'disease program.'
"The Fact Sheet further explains USDA definitely insists on keeping the NAIS premises ID database it has gathered to date. They refuse to admit that most people have been hijacked into that database, instead characterizing participants as virtuous civic-minded types engaged in fighting disease," she writes.
This is disappointing, because the motivation for changing NAIS was the vocal resistance to it by small farmers. Wendell Berry vowed he would be willing to go to jail rather than participate. Instead of real change that supports small, sustainable agriculture, the USDA comes up with a cosmetic spin to befuddle the people who should be their constituents.
Sustainable agriculture is an idea whose time has come. Continuing to serve the interests of industrial agriculture rather than the agricultural change we need will only perpetuate the disastrous food and environmental situation in which we find ourselves.
And small farmers are willing to continue to resist, if USDA continues to pursue this policy.