I encourage EVERYONE to comment on this proposed rule, even if you do not own the livestock currently proposed to be affected (this opens the door to the rest) AND even if you will never own any livestock.  If you like to eat local foods, this WILL affect you.

Comments on Docket No. APHIS–2007–0096 Official Animal Identification Numbering Systems

January 24, 2009

This proposal is nothing more than a back door approach to implement a mandatory NAIS.  What happened to the USDA’s often stated claim “NAIS is voluntary with a capital ‘V’”!

You cite:

“Executive Order 12866 and Regulatory Flexibility Act

This proposed rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12866. The rule has been determined to be not significant for the purposes of Executive Order 12866 and, therefore, has not been reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget.”

How can this be?  The first paragraph of Executive Order 12866 and Regulatory Flexibility Act states:

“The American people deserve a regulatory system that works for them, not against them: a regulatory system that protects and improves their health, safety, environment, and well-being and improves the performance of the economy without imposing unacceptable or unreasonable costs on society; regulatory policies that recognize that the private sector and private markets are the best engine for economic growth; regulatory approaches that respect the role of State, local, and tribal governments; and regulations that are effective, consistent, sensible, and understandable. We do not have such a regulatory system today.”


Section 1.  Statement of Regulatory Philosophy and Principles. (a) The Regulatory Philosophy. Federal agencies should promulgate only such regulations as are required by law, are necessary to interpret the law, or are made necessary by compelling public need, such as material failures of private markets to protect or improve the health and safety of the public, the environment, or the well-being of the American p eople. In deciding whether and how to regulate, agencies should assess all costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives, including the alternative of not regulating. Costs and benefits shall be understood to include both quantifiable measures (to the fullest extent that these can be usefully estimated) and qualitative measures of costs and benefits that are difficult to quantify, but nevertheless essential to consider. Further, in choosing among alternative regulatory approaches, agencies should select those approaches that maximize net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, public health and safety, and other advantages; distributive impacts; and equity), unless a statute requires another regulatory approach.”

I submit that you are violating this act by not first having this proposal reviewed by the OMB and by not making public the cost/benefit analysis completed by Kansas State University.

NAIS will directly affect my ability to raise and sell breeding stock to other people and 4-H children when they discover that they must register their ‘premises’ (property) in a federal database for a program whose true costs and requirements are yet unknown!  I view NAIS as a direct threat to the continued survival of rare and endangered species of livestock.

NAIS will do nothing to stop disease from entering this country.  It is an ‘after the fact’ reaction.  It will also do nothing to stop disease from entering our food chain because it ends at the slaughterhouse door.  The large recalls that have occurred in the past few years were all from contamination that occurred in either the slaughterhouse, the packing industry or at the retail level, NOT on the farm itself!

On page 1635, column 1, paragraph 3, the proposed rule states:

“It is not our intent at this time to set a date by which AIN eartags in adult animals must conform to the 840 standard.”

The wording of this sentence indicates that you DO intend to do just that in the future.  Requiring livestock owners to retag animals at some point in the future will be a terrible economic burden.

On page 1635, column 2, paragraph 1, the proposed rule states:

the fundamental purpose of a PIN is to identify locations in the United States where livestock and/or poultry are housed or kept.


When animal health officials know where at risk animals and locations are and have accurate, up-to-date contact information for their owners, they can respond quickly and strategically to prevent disease spread.”

There is no way this database can ever be 100% accurate!  I have a very real fear that your agency will look at as just that, especially after listening to numerous USDA officials speak.

Your often cited reason for NAIS is ‘mad cow’ disease and the need to trace where said cow went.  Not ONE of the cows who tested positive for BSE originated in this country!  Each one of them was imported from Canada yet you consistently water down the import requirements!

On page 1635, column 2, paragraph 3, the proposed rule states:

Because the use of a single numbering system to represent premises in all animal-health data systems would help to standardize information and to enhance existing disease-tracing and emergency-response capabilities, we are proposing to remove the PIN format that uses the State postal abbreviation and are proposing to create a single national format for the PIN by requiring that all PINs issued on or after the date on which this proposed rule becomes effective would have to use the seven character alphanumeric code format.

If the FIN (flock identification number) “serves the sheep and goat population well”, and will be continued under this proposal, why the need to change from the current state postal code numbering system for other species of livestock?

In addition, storing all PIN’s in a single database at the USDA will be far less secure than the current system of storing locations at the state/territory/tribe level.  It is well known that any computer system can be ‘hacked into”.  The USDA’s own system has been a victim of this in the past with social security numbers for private individuals stolen.  If an individual or group wants to contaminate our food supply, how much easier could it be if the location of every producer is stored in one massive database?! 

On page 1637, column 2, paragraph 3, the proposed rule states:

We do not currently have all the data necessary for a comprehensive analysis of the effects of this proposed rule on small entities. Therefore, we are inviting comments concerning potential effects.  In particular, we are interested in determining the potential costs to eartag manufacturers and livestock producers.

According to a recent FOIA request for copies of the completed ‘NAIS Cost-Benefit Analysis’, the USDA has a 438 page report from Kansas State University.  This FOIA request was denied.  What happened to ‘transparency in government’?

According to your grant proposal, you paid Kansas State $50,000 of taxpayer money for this study.  Why has this report not been made public? 

Why are you, once again, submitting a proposed rule for a program which you cannot or will not state the actual costs to the producers themselves?

On page 1637, column 3, paragraph 3, the proposed rule states:

These potential costs may be passed on to livestock producers that purchase the new eartags. We do not have data to quantitatively estimate these potential costs at this time, and welcome public comment from affected entities with this information.”

In this economy, where small farmers are already struggling to make ends meet, why do you propose that these costs be passed on to the producer?  Especially by technology companies who stand to gain windfall profits from the implementation of this system?  This latter fact has been clearly reported in numerous technology journals and memos/reports to stockholders from the approved tag/RFID manufacturers.

It would be far more cost effective and safer for humans if the $130 million of taxpayer money that has been spent so far trying to implement this expensive, intrusive system had been spent on a software system that would be compatible with the current systems in use AND by increasing the number of inspectors at our portals of entry and at the slaughterhouse/processing level.  Then, and only then, would our food be safer.

When NAIS drives all the small farmers out, where will people go to buy their locally grown and wholesome food?

When NAIS drives all the small farmers out, we will become increasingly dependent on importing food, just as we have become increasingly dependent on importing oil.

When NAIS causes parents to pull their children out of 4-H and Future Farmers of America, what will the cost be to society?  Raising animals teaches children responsibility, improves their self-esteem, teaches them the value of ‘community’ and makes them less likely to engage in criminal activity.

When NAIS drives all of us who raise rare and endangered breeds out, where will the larger producers go when they need to improve the genetic strength of their commercial breeds?

Karen Nowak

Pond Ridge Farm

Brookfield, NY