Proposed government regulations may threaten the viability of small scale producers and raise the cost of locally produced food, say local food advocates.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scuttled its plans for a National Animal Identification System (NAIS) following a storm of protests from thousands of farmers and consumers. But just two years later, the agency is pushing through a modified version of the traceability program that still fails to address the concerns about the costs and burdens it will impose.
As proposed by the USDA, the new program would require every chicken that is transported across state lines to be officially identified. Provisions for “group identification” are included but will most likely only apply to large vertically integrated operations, while those who own small numbers of poultry will be required to individually identify their birds.
“Thousands of people buy day-old chicks from out-of-state hatcheries every year and will be subject to new federal regulations,” notes Sally Fallon Morell, President of the nutrition education non-profit Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), and a champion of local fresh food for its nutritional value. “The USDA has completely failed to calculate the costs the new regulations will impose, in both out-of-pocket expenses and red tape, on small poultry farmers and backyard chicken owners who have a few birds for their own use and enjoyment.”
Cattle owners would also be subject to requirements to officially identify cattle that cross state lines. Associated businesses, such as livestock sale barns and veterinarians, would be subject to extensive new recordkeeping requirements as well.
The WAPF joined in a letter sent by over a dozen consumer and farming organizations to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, objecting to the USDA’s failure to properly assess the costs of the program. As noted in the letter, research done at the North Dakota State University indicated that the costs to cattle producers could be more than five times greater per animal than the USDA’s estimate and amount to hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
“The agency woefully underestimated the cost to livestock producers, for example, assuming farmers could tag a 1,000 lb cow in just one minute, as if they were handling a case of beans,” continued Ms. Fallon Morell.
WAPF promotes consumer access to local foods from farmers committed to food safety, humane animal husbandry and rich soil.
“By adding yet more unnecessary regulation, the proposed animal tracking scheme will mean fewer options and higher food prices for the final consumer,” concluded Ms. Fallon Morell. “The burden falls hardest on small producers, those least like to have problems with animal health and safety.”
The Weston A. Price Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit, with 572 chapters and over 14,000 members, worldwide.