Say it again, with feeling: Senators John Tester (D-MT) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) flexed some legislative and moral muscle earlier this week with an amendment to the agriculture spending bill that halves funding for the USDA's controversial National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The amended bill passed the Senate on Tuesday. Independent livestock producers applauded the effort, though they would like to see the Senate cut funding completely. In the words of a spokesperson from the Western Organization of Resource Councils, "This has Tester over the chest of NAIS with the stake in his hand and the hammer halfway toward a good swing, which is much better [than nothing]." Maybe if Tester was as eloquent as the WORC guy, we'd cut him some slack. (Billings Gazette)
Background: Deplored by many livestock producers and family farm organizations as being expensive, unworkable, and ineffective, NAIS would require most animals raised for food in the U.S. to be tagged with a "unique electronic ID" and their movements registered in a national database. The system has been promoted by USDA and other interests as a tool to trace animals back to the farm or ranch, useful in hoof-and-mouth outbreaks. But consumer and family farm groups contend that most meat contamination happens at processing plants - witness today's massive E. coli/ground beef recall - and NAIS would do nothing to prevent these sorts of problems. NAIS is currently voluntary in most states, but there is a push by the USDA and powerful interest groups to make it mandatory. R-CALF, a group representing independent cattle producers, accused the USDA this week of gettin' cozy with ear-tag manufacturers at producers' expense.