It's always interesting to hear what Secretary of Agriculture Johanns has to say about NAIS. But I found an interesting story about the questions he is not answering about NAIS. I thought I would share these facts.
For example, Johanns repeatedly dodged questions about whether USDA's intent was to make and maintain NAIS as a voluntary or mandatory program. He stressed it's a voluntary program today and believes a voluntary program is preferable.
You will note that the draft plan has it as mandatory and he appears to be dodging the question on whether it will be or not. He keeps saying that he would "prefer" it to be voluntary , but no assurances are coming from him.
Johanns also demurs from questions aimed at assessing what level of voluntary participation is required for effective animal-health trace-back.
This is when it would become mandatory, if there is not enough voluntary participation. At what level will this happen? He won't commit.
Similarly, Johanns will not provide an answer about the system's cost, other than alluding to the $83 million USDA has already poured into it. One reason may be no such estimate exists, despite repeated requests from the industry for a cost-benefit analysis.
In a separate one-on-one interview, Chief Veterinary Officer, John Clifford, was more specific, implying producers will be responsible for purchasing and applying NAIS tags. He pointed out no state is currently charging producers to register their premises with NAIS, which is a prerequisite to obtaining official NAIS tags.
He doesn't want to talk about what it will cost the industry and producers. Some of his underlings are, but not Johanns He just keeps spouting how much the USDA has spent. So, since the USDA has spent money on it we are going to be forced to do it? Sounds like Johanns plan.
Other key questions still unanswered:
Who guarantees confidentiality? For obvious reasons, producers are unlikely to provide any NAIS data if they believe it could be accessed by anyone other than state and federal animal-health officials. Johanns said, "I agree with livestock producers who believe information about your livestock is your business, period."
Again, in a separate interview, Clifford was more specific. He explains USDA has protected producer info from prying eyes and the Freedom of Information Act via the Privacy Act. However, state animal-health officials and others continue to emphasize the need for legislation at both levels aimed at protecting NAIS data specifically.
What about working group recommendations? Each livestock species devised its own working group to make NAIS recommendations to the Secretary of Ag. Those from the Cattle Industry Working Group were submitted months ago and have yet to receive approval or denial from USDA. That means anything beyond premises registration remains speculation. In turn, that means few producers are likely to begin tagging cattle with NAIS tags until species-specific recommendations are adopted.
Is it all for all and one for all? Cattle and swine are more advanced in NAIS development than any of the others. Some other species are just getting started, while others continue to dig their feet in against elements of the program. It's difficult to imagine cattle producers embracing a program like NAIS if other species are allowed to sit on the sidelines.
Do you know what you're talking about? The cooperative effort between the livestock industry and the state and federal animal-health officials charged with protecting those industries emphasized the need for a national system for animal health purposes. Yet Johanns continues to harp on his belief the market will drive NAIS adoption, that there are already economic incentives in the domestic and international markets to provide ID.
All kinds of questions left unanswered by Johanns. Why is that? Scared because he doesn't want the industry figuring out what that this is against there interests? That's what I think, he doesn't want to be caught in a lie but can't tell the truth. Pretty uncomfortable position.
This final one really takes the cake. It has nothing to do with Johanns comments.
Perhaps the most positive outcome of the meeting was a public display of the livestock industry's ongoing resolve to develop and implement a national animal ID system for the purpose of protecting the nation's livestock. In an informal survey of the 600 meeting participants, 78% believe such a system is so imperative to protecting the livestock industry that it should be made mandatory.
In the opinion of the author of the piece, it is a positive outcome that some 78% of people at the conference think it should be mandatory. That is not the feeling out in the country. But what do you expect the outcome of the survey to be at a conference designed to promote NAIS. People that don't believe in it were not going to attend, only the full fledged supporters were there.
Keep those letters and phone calls going. Let your elected Representatives know how dangerous this is and how it needs derailed. Working together this can be stopped.
An ear tag never stopped a disease, but it sure has Johanns avoiding the hard questions.