A lawsuit filed by the Farmers-to-Consumers Legal Defense Fund to stop the National Animal Identification System was dismissed by a Federal Judge in Washington D.C. late last week.
In her decision, U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, said the NAIS is not a federal law or regulation. It is a voluntary program developed by the United States Department of Agriculture for states’ agricultural departments to use if they choose to do so. Therefore, the lawsuit was irrelevant.
Collyer was right to deny the suit. The NAIS program is just that: a program and it is currently voluntary. It’s up to the individual states’ to enforce it, or not. And while Michigan became the first state to make some parts of the program mandatory and most of the farmers pushing the suit were from Michigan, it seems that Collyer’s court, as federal court, was not the place for this lawsuit at this time.
A large number of farmers and ranchers are fighting the NAIS because the USDA and more than 40 members of Congress would like to make it mandatory. The legislators say something must be done to better track diseased animals and recall contaminated food. Too many incidents of unsafe food have lead to illness and even death. They claim the public has lost confidence in the nation’s food supply and a mandatory NAIS system will also help restore that confidence.
But farmers say NAIS is bad for business and will hurt small farms. If made mandatory, the law would require radio-tagging or micro-chipping of nearly all livestock. Some small farmers and ranchers say the system will put them out of business. The cost of identifying the animals ranges from $2 to $60 per animal.
If the program becomes mandatory under federal law, more legal action will likely be pursued. But that hasn’t happened, yet. It might make more sense to focus on working with representatives to ensure a sliding-fee scale is part of the proposal and meaningful steps are taken so a mandatory NAIS system, if passed, doesn’t cause farmers and ranchers financial ruin.