Tales from the Kitchen

Kitchen table discussions with recipes and ideas for shopping on a budget, cooking for a family, meal planning.

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I'm happily married, mom to four boys and four girls at home, with one in the presence of God. We are slowly working on raising our own food and making much of what we need. I knit, cook, read, pray, think, write, crochet, and I'm trying to sew, too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Rebuttal to the Comment on my Previous Post

I can see why a veterinarian in a city might not see the imposition and burden on the rural farmer who is trying to rasie food for his family in this proposal. Especially when one considers that the only effects this would have on you, and that you would really see, would be to turn you into an informant and possibly increase your work with placing the devices in the animals. Simply reading through the proposal would not convince the people who will be affected to agree.

If the main concern is tracking disease, the USDA might take better care to inspect those large company meat processing plants, the ones where the vast majority of food contamination comes from in the first place. If this law would impose a crackdown on such operations, I doubt very much that those food companies would support it, as they do. Instead it makes the home farmer the target, the person raising food for his family without the intent to sell as well as the small food producer. It also includes non-food animals. In fact, in KS, after the mad cow scare, Creekstone Farms asked the USDA for permission to test each of the animals they slaughtered, so they could get back in business, at their own expense. The USDA forbid such testing. The reason, it seems, is because large-scale packing plants like Tyson, Smithfield, Swift & Co., and Excel Corp. do not want to do such intensive testing and these companies control approximately 80% of the meat-packing industry. As a result, Creekstone had to layoff 150 of their 800 employees. The USDA cannot control the major sources of food contamination as it is, and the big food companies know this. They know that the added cost to the small farmer from the tagging of the animals and the fines has the very real possibility of putting them out of business, if their smaller customer base cannot take the cost being passed on to them, or the home farmer for whom the added cost may make raising food for his family completely prohibitive.

Just the fact that Agribusiness supports these measures (when they have done such a poor job of maintaining even basic cleanliness standards in their slaughter houses and processing plants) makes me wary. And as for becoming more like Canada, the thought makes me cringe. They are having their freedoms stripped every day, and anything that would bring us closer to their system is a step in the wrong direction.

It is also ridiculous to include such livestock as poultry, especially chickens, when they are often culled early on, are attacked by predators (often neighbor dogs), and their turnover rate is so much faster than other livestock. Then, of course, is the tracking of non-food animals such as fiber animals, work animals and pets.

The projected estimate for implenting this plan is 33 billion dollars. $33,000,000,000.00 just to implement it, not including the cost to maintain it. $115.78 for every man, woman and child in the US. It does not include the cost to microchip the animals either, making those who raise food pay even more. Those who raise food for their own consumption have no way of recouping the cost of this program, where commercial operations will pass the cost on to the customer. This program will also eat away at rural programs like 4-H, as they will be swallowing the costs like the home farmer, with little or no recouping of their money.

A friend of mine who actually raises livestock for her family wrote:

Agribusiness, specifically The National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA), lobbied the USDA (after 9/11 and subsequent BSE scares) to create the NAIS supposedly to protect U.S. citizens and their animals from diseases. The NIAA is composed primarily of two groups - (1) large corporate producers and (2) the makers and producers of animal ID equipment. In April 2002 a task force composed of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and over 30 livestock organizations provided leadership in creating the animal identification system. Small-scale farmers involved in animal husbandry, homesteaders, and animal hobbyists were not represented.

Language quoted from the Draft Strategic Plan proves this, "APHIS then established the National Identification Development Team (NIDT), a joint, State, Federal, and industry group to further advance this effort. Throughout 2003, the NIDT, consisting of approximately 100 animal and livestock industry professionals representing more than 70 associations, organizations, and government agencies, expanded upon the work plan to produce the initial draft of the U.S. Animal Identification Plan (USAIP)." (Plan, p. 4) While associations, organizations, etc. may be backing the NAIS, they did not inform their members of this proposed legislation. Chances are the members still have no idea that their freedoms are being given away.

I am writing in opposition of the National Animal Identification System because:

(1) Should the NAIS become law, we will be forced to pay fees to register our farms and animals. "Even with public funding, there will be costs to producers." (Plan, p. 11)
(2) We will be forced to report to the national animal records repository within a short-term specified timeframe the birth, death, and loss of identification device, sale, or movement of any animal in our possession.
(3) We will be required to report to the national animal records repository when an animal we own attends a livestock show, participates in a trail ride, is transported to another farm for stud service, or takes part in a community parade, etc.
(4) Our personal information collected through NAIS could be disclosed - “the USDA cannot assure the confidentiality of all the information at the present time." (Plan, p. 15) Financial institutions were not able to keep this information confidential, so it is no surprise that USDA cannot guarantee confidentiality.
(5) The NAIS will violate the religious beliefs of minority faith communities by requiring them to become part of this computerized, technology-dependent system or abandon the livestock ownership necessary for their way of life. (Many adherents raise their own food animals and use animals in farming and for transportation. Some, by scriptural teaching, would refuse to take the "mark" of such a numbering system.)
(6) Our livestock would become part of the "national herd." (Plan, p. 8)

Not only would small farm operators be negatively affected by the NAIS, but this legislation will do serious damage to feed store owners, farm supply houses, hatcheries that sell and ship day-old poultry, and other businesses frequented by farmers.

The most common types of meat contamination in the U.S. are the occurrences of pathogens such as Listeria or E. Coli in processed meat. When meat becomes contaminated at a large packing plant, millions of consumers in all 50 states are exposed to the dangerous product. Government should enact a law to closer scrutinize the large commercial confinement food sources such as the giant broiler operations, the feed yards that produce beef, the large commercial turkey operations, laying houses, and the confinement hog farms. Because of over-crowded conditions and the general biological by-products of animal production, these are the places most likely to contribute in the spreading of infectious disease, not the premises of small producers. If our government is indeed concerned with BSE, why does it not test every slaughtered animal? In fact, if you look at the USDA's prior actions, you will see it does not care to test every animal slaughtered and in fact forbids it.

She also wrote, and I agree:

If the real purpose of NAIS is to track the food supply for instances like mad cow disease then:

1) NAIS is not necessary for horses, donkeys, guardian animals or other non-food animals (such as fiber sheep, goats, llamas, alpaca, angora rabbits) - these animals are not going to enter the human food chain in our country and should NOT be tracked by the government. There are already safeguards in place for preventing the spread of disease in horses. Regulations that would require implantation of a chip to track movement and registration of premises keyed to Global Positioning System coordinates is an invasion of privacy and makes no sense for a hobby farmer who raises alpacas or a family with a pet pony.

2) NAIS is not necessary for sales direct to the consumer from the farm. In these cases there is already far better tracking of the food chain. I am more confident in the safety of food raised on small farms than that which is commercially raised in confined, disease-promoting environments, pumped full of vaccines and antibiotics to counter the effect of confinement and mass slaughtered in unsanitary packing plants where the employees have no personal pride in the quality of the product they touch each and every day. If NAIS is forced on small hobby farmers and homesteaders, hundreds of thousands if not millions of individuals may have to give up farming if they cannot afford expensive RFID readers or cannot keep up with the excessive reporting required by NAIS.

3) NAIS should not be at all involved with people who are raising livestock for their own family consumption. They know exactly where the food came from - they raised it. There is no need to have any government involved in our own kitchens and food that we raise in our own backyards. I see raising food for our families as a basic human right that should not be interfered with by government.

4) NAIS is a violation of the religious freedoms of Americans whose beliefs make it impossible for them to comply. For example, the Amish choose to farm and live without technology according to their beliefs and this system is a threat to their way of life.

NAIS if implemented, should be required only for those large commercial operations where the health, welfare, and safety of livestock is disregarded in favor of profit. Commercial operations are responsible for the bulk of the meat and dairy product consumed throughout the United States, and they are responsible for the vast majority of disease and illness and contamination found in these products. They can absorb the cost of such an endeavor; the small family farmer cannot and should not!

Inclusion of small farmers, homesteaders, and backyard hobbyists requiring identification of animals that will never make it into in the food chain, or even requiring pets be identified strongly suggests ulterior motives by the government such as invasion of privacy. The plan, as it stands, will undoubtedly result in financial hardship for those already at risk, serving only to enhance the bottom line of special interest groups. Further, the overwhelming scope of such an endeavor begs failure as tracking the movement of animals, such as horses, will require considerable resources while providing no subsequent value to protection of the food chain.

I am extremely skeptical whether our government would be capable of tracking every single animal born for the entirety of its life. Given the failure of our government to track illegal aliens in this country, I cannot believe it will be able to track every single chicken hatched on a small farm. Even those members of Government who promote this plan realize this is impossible, which is why the sole responsibility has been placed squarely on the shoulders of those individuals who do not accept this program! As such, any failures will be a result of owner error and will result in fines being levied on these individuals. The government is implementing a program that they know cannot work while taking no responsibility for its failures!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Public Service Announcement

Do you raise animals for food? Have pets? Shop at Farmers' markets or small organic producers of meat? Buy yarn or fiber from small production companies/farms that raise sheep, llama, alpaca, angora rabbits or goats? Then this announcement applies to you. Please read and sign the petition if you agree, and then write to your US senators and your US representative and ask them to oppose this. Also, please feel free to copy this post and post it on your blog.

Small farmers and backyard flock/herd keepers are facing a serious threat
to their way of life. The government is proposing a Mandatory Property and
Animal Surveillance Program that will require the registration of property
and individual animals, even if you have only one chicken, pig, cow, etc.
This must be stopped, or all small farmers will be driven out of business.

Help Stop the USDA from Taking Away Our Livestock and Our Pets

Poultry keepers and small farmers are facing a serious threat from a
proposed government intrusion in to their pastimes and way of life. For
quite a while now, the USDA has been working with the very largest scale animal industry
organizations ( for example, The National Pork Producers, Monsanto Company,
and Cargill Meat) to develop a mandatory "National Animal Identification
System" (NAIS).

Most small scale livestock producers, people who raise animals for their own
food, and people who keep horses and livestock as companion animals do not
know about this. The NAIS will drive small producers out of the market, will
force people to stop raising animals for their own food, and will invade our
privacy to an extreme degree. It will violate the religious freedoms of
Americans whose beliefs make it impossible for them to comply, and will
destroy the last vestiges of animal welfare from the production of animals
for food.

On April 25, 2005,the USDA released "Draft Program Standards" and a "Draft
Strategic Plan" concerning the NAIS. If you think the description below to
bizarre to be true, please go to usda.gov/nais and read the Standards and
Plan and check the citations for yourself.

By January 1, 2008, the NAIS will be mandatory.(Plan,pp. 2,10,17) Every
person who owns even one horse, cow ,pig, chicken, sheep, pigeon, or
virtually any livestock animal, will be forced to register their home,
including the owners name, address and phone number, and keyed to Global
Positioning System coordinates for satellite monitoring in a giant federal
database under a 7-digit "premises id number." St., pp. 3-4, 10-12; Plan,

Every animal will be assigned a 15 digit I.D. number, also to be kept in a
federal database. The id will likely be a tag or microchip containing a
Radio Frequency Device, designed to be read from a distance. (Plan, p.10;
St.,pp.6,12,20,27-28.) The plan may include collecting the DNA of every
animal and /or a retinal scan.

The owner will be required to report the birthdate of every animal, the
application of every animal's id tag, every time an animal enters or leaves
the property, every time an animal loses a tag, every time a tag is
replaced, the slaughter or death of an animal, if any animal is missing.
These events must be reported within 24 hours.

Third parties, like veterinarians, will be required to report "sightings" of
animals. For example, if you have a vet on your property to treat a sick
animal, and the vet sees any animal without the mandatory 15-digit computer
readable id, the vet will be required to report you.

If you do not comply, the USDA will exorcise "enforcement" against you. The
USDA hasn't specified the nature of "enforcement" as of yet, but it will
probably include fines and/or seizing your animals. There are no exceptions
- under this plan you will be forced to register an report even if you raise
animals only for your own food or keep horses for draft or transportation.

What you can do:

Small scale keepers of poultry and other livestock can take action to create
an effective movement in opposition to the USDA plan. First, small scale
livestock owners should not participate in any "voluntary" state or federal
program to register farms or animals. The USDA is making farmers willingness
to participate in a "voluntary" program as a justification for making the
program mandatory. ( See Plan, "Executive Summary" and pp.7-8) Small farmers
and livestock owners can also help to inform and organize others. The USDA
presently does not plan to finalize it's rules for mandatory id until the
summer of 2006. There is still time to make your voice heard. Please, sign
this petition and let the USDA know we will not stand for having our right,
freedoms, and personal privacy taken away. Thank you.