Thursday, June 26, 2008

NAIS: Putting Local Ranchers Out of Business

Seems Congress is now trying to help the US Department of Agriculture make what has been billed as a voluntary system, mandatory, and in the process shut small farmers and ranchers out of the farm-to-school program. The system is the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) which is a USDA plan to electronically track every livestock animal in the country (an ill-conceived, bureaucratic nightmare that masquerades as a food safety measure).

Today, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a provision of the 2009 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that was introduced last week by Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). It would require all meat products for the school lunch program be purchased only from livestock premises registered with NAIS. Long story short: The extra cost NAIS imposes on small ranchers and farmers will in many cases put them out of business and out of the farm-to-school program.

Ironically, the farm-to-school program is all about improving children's nutrition while providing family farms with a reliable market.

A lot of groups are opposed and are trying to get the measure defeated. If you're interested in supporting local agriculture (and if you're a Slow Foodie you probably are), you owe it to yourself to get smart on NAIS and actively oppose it.

Here are some good sources:

The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. Based in Austin, it's a leader in the fight against NAIS.
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which is filing suit against the USDA to halt the implementation of NAIS.

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