AT first glance, the plan by the federal Department of Agriculture to battle disease among farm animals is a technological marvel: we farmers tag every head of livestock in the country with ID chips and the department electronically tracks the animals’ whereabouts. If disease breaks out, the department can identify within 48 hours which animals are ill, where they are, and what other animals have been exposed.NAIS has been around awhile, but now Congress is proposing to make it mandatory. Hayes goes on to detail how much it would cost small farmers to chip every cow and chicken, calf and pullet.
At a time when diseases like mad cow and bird flu have made consumers worried about food safety, being able to quickly track down the cause of an outbreak seems like a good idea. Unfortunately, the plan, which is called the National Animal Identification System and is the subject of a House subcommittee hearing today, would end up rewarding the factory farms whose practices encourage disease while crippling small farms and the local food movement.
Besides, NAIS is about controling disease by quarantine, which is locking the barn after the horses are out. Hayes gets to the root of the matter: Continue reading