Where do you stand on the NAIS issue?
Tom Huff –
I believe NAIS should be voluntary. With that said, you should know that I registered for, and received my premise ID number in January 2005. Farmers are, by nature, an independent lot, therefore when anything is brought before them as being mandatory their first reaction will be to oppose it. Producers need to keep an open mind about a voluntary NAIS, and realize the value and importance of NAIS will be in aiding animal disease control and eradication. Another possible benefit could be a boost in consumer confidence of a safe food supply that traceability would provide. But there remains some unanswered questions about NAIS, such as who pays for the program, who will have access to the information provided by producers, will individual producers' information be protected from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act? Liability issues will arise, producers need assurances they will be protected from problems caused by the actions of others after animals leave their control. Once such questions have been answered, a voluntary NAIS would allow each producer to decide what is best for themselves. Those who oppose NAIS so strongly today, might join a successful voluntary program in the future.
Francis Forst –
There are a number of foreign animal diseases and the infection of just one U.S. pig could cause massive economic disorder in the U.S. pork industry.
Knowing that, and knowing about the difficulties U.S. health officials had in finding the source of some recent deadly food-borne illnesses, ought to be incentive enough for the pork industry to promptly implement a swine identification plan. But some disparate voices are frustrating progress on getting an ID system in place.
It is well past time to quiet the naysayers and to move forward with a national mandatory ID system for all swine.
The National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board are doing just that, working to enhance a swine ID system that has been in place since 1988. That plan, which covers pigs moving in interstate and international commerce, helped eradicate pseudorabies.
To augment that system, all pork producers have been asked to register their premises, and to date more than 80 percent of them have.
c. Russell Wood-
At the USDA listening session held in Jefferson City, 54 speakers took the microphone to speak against NAIS and only one spoke for it. When the Missouri legislature passed SB931 which says, "The department of agriculture shall not mandate or otherwise force national animal identification system (NAIS) premise registration," it was by a vote of 136-10 in the Mo. House and 30-1 in the Senate. Having participated in over 30 locally organized NAIS information meetings around Missouri and northern Arkansas attended by several thousand accumulatively, I have heard and seen a resounding "no" to NAIS. Count me in with these, the ones who would bear the brunt of NAIS.
Economic costs or value in your viewpoint
Tom Huff –
Producers will find value in a voluntary system because of the food safety. There’s a potato chip brand that you can go online and read bios about farmers who grew their potatoes. People are interested in food safety and where their food comes from. The NAIS program would be one way to alleviate fears. Also, with exports, after the BSE scare, various countries we export beef and pork and various animal products to, I feel, are going to demand traceability.
But the cost is a big question. Questions need to be answered, and therefore, in no way, shape or form do they need to talk mandatory yet, until we get answers. Liability is a huge issue… this is a sue-happy world. There needs to be something set to limit the liability only while the animal is in the individual producers' possesion. In example, processing plants have been in the news for E. coli outbreaks. That’s not the producer’s problem.
Francis Forst –
Pork producers are already facing losses of over $20 per head since October 2007. And, if just export markets were disrupted because of a disease outbreak in the U.S., Iowa State University economists predict additional losses of $48 per head. Given the recent response to the H1N1 flu outbreak, it’s clear some U.S. trading partners will close their markets.
Contrary to critics of an ID system, the information being collected is already available through public sources, such as state-issued environmental permits. Hog owners must provide only the name of their entity, the physical address of the entity, a contact person and phone number and the type of operation.
The swine industry ID system is consistent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Identification System plan, the main goal of which is 48-hour trace back of an animal to its farm of origin.
c. Russell Wood-
The economic benefits promised by the NAIS proponents are dubious at best. Remember NAIS is a trace back program for live animals. To infer it is for food safety is completely imaginary and it is not a marketing program. If there were real benefits to be had they would not be having to force producers into the program.
The economic impact of NAIS will be negative for the producer, especially the smaller ones. The  cost of tags, tagging equipment and labor, tag reading equipment, tagging of each new crop born, cost of each report of movement, shrinkage at point of sale due to tag reading and reading errors and fewer sale outlets will all be born by the producer. Even if there was a premium offered it would evaporate when all complied.
Thoughts for producers who haven't decided
Tom Huff –
Keep an open mind, don't automatically be afraid of a NAIS. There is a real need for disease control. The benefits traceability would provide in an outbreak are huge. Instead of just wrecking the entire country’s beef industry, the value of beef going down, the effects could be limited to a certain area. The quicker the industry could control the outbreak, the lesser the impact for everyone.
Francis Forst –
The U.S. pork industry supports a species-specific approach to a national animal ID system rather than a one-size-fits-all plan, and it supports a mandatory system rather than a voluntary one. (Remember, it only takes one pig or cow or chicken infected with a disease to close export markets.) The industry does not, however, support proposals to report all animal movement information to a single, national database, especially since it would add costs to pork producers. If forced to report all pig movements, the industry will argue for reporting to state-maintained databases, which should be publicly funded through the USDA.
c. Russell Wood-
If there are animal owners who are contemplating joining NAIS, I would say study the documents. Premise registration of your property is the first step and that's what NAIS is built on. Be sure you know what you are getting into and whether you can ever completely remove your property if you change your mind, or if the next owner doesn't want it registered. Don't act on sales pitches. Read it for yourself carefully.
The most repeated comment I have heard over the past three years is, "If NAIS is put into effect I'm getting out of the business." This comment comes mostly from small producers who simply refuse to jump through the hoops in order to keep animals on their own property. If it was a beneficial program they would be standing in line to sign up. It isn't and they're not.
How NAIS affects local livestock producers
Tom Huff –
To participate in a voluntary system, or any NAIS system, a lot of people will have to change their ways as far as identifying their animals. Yes, this is the 21st Century, but there are still a lot of small producers who don’t tag or have a specific id system for what calf came off what cow. People are going to have to, in some way shape or form, start identifying their animals.
Francis Forst –
Quite simply, the swine ID system is being implemented by producers for producers to help ensure the health of the national swine herd. It will allow animal health officials and producers to more easily and more rapidly monitor, control, contain and eradicate any disease. And that means no market disruptions and, most importantly, it helps pork producers stay in business.
c. Russell Wood-
Keep in mind that NAIS covers 29 species and calls for registering all premises  with the government where any of the 29 species are located or pass through; individual electronic tagging of animals (except large lots born together and slaughtered together then one tag covers the lot as with confinement chicken or hog operations); and reporting of animal movement from birth premise through all locations till death. Its stated purpose is to trace the animal back to its premise of origin in case of a disease outbreak. It ends at the death of the animal  terminating before the animal enters the food chain.
 There is confusion between what is described above and the many voluntary privately run "value added" feeder calf programs available to producers. These programs are not NAIS but some do require participants to have an NAIS premise registration number. However, some programs such as the MFA feeder calf program have dropped that requirement. These programs are often referred to by those advocating a voluntary NAIS, thus the confusion.
NAIS is not designed to be voluntary and would be rolled over to mandatory, as they point out they have the power to do once implemented.


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