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Forget the illegal aliens, track the cows!

By Henry Lamb
web posted June 18, 2007

For more than 20 years, illegal aliens have crossed the U.S. border by the millions, and have successfully avoided thousands of law enforcement officials whose job it is to capture and remove the illegals from the United States.  Government has utterly failed to locate, capture, or remove the illegals.

Despite this spectacular failure - the inability to find 20-million illegal aliens -  this same government is preparing to locate, monitor, and control the movement of hundreds of millions of livestock animals.  Every cow - as many as 100-million - must have a unique numbered identification tag, most likely, a Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID).  More than 500-million chickens must be identified with a similar tag.  Every horse, every pig, every goat, every sheep - every livestock animal in the United States will be required to have a unique number, loaded into a national database, along with the coordinates of the premises where the animal is housed.  And should an animal leave the premises for any reason, the owner would have to report it to the government within 24 hours, or face fines and jail penalties.

Why would the government undertake such a ridiculous program, when it has already demonstrated that it has no hope of keeping track of illegal aliens? 

Illegal aliens bring in drugs, guns, disease,  and who knows what else.  Illegal aliens drive down wages.  Illegal aliens commit a disproportionate number of crimes, and clog the court system and fill the jails.  Illegal aliens drain social services at taxpayer expense - and the government is helpless - or unwilling - to do anything about it.

But the government is all hot to trot about tagging all the animals in the country because - they say - it may help locate the source of a disease, should one break out. 

The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is not about an animal disease, or potential disease.  It's about money.  It's about big money for big meat processors and the political campaigns they can fatten.

Thanks to the various committees and working groups of the World Trade Organization, the international community has decided that global trade in meat products should be traceable, and require a "national system" to be in place before meat products can be imported into certain countries.   

The National Institute for Animal Agriculture, a not-for-profit collection of the major trade associations and meat processors, developed a plan, along with a willing U.S. Department of Agriculture, to impose the NAIS on farmers and ranchers, without their consent, and at their expense.  In Idaho alone, more than 15,000 ranchers were registered into the program without their knowledge or permission.

Opposition exploded across the nation, and the USDA rewrote their plan, and said that henceforth, the NAIS would be "voluntary."   Yeah, right.  That's like saying the new immigration bill will solve the illegal alien problem.

While claiming that the program is "voluntary," the USDA is paying various state agencies and non-profit groups to register farmers and ranchers into the program, often using coercive techniques.  In Colorado, 4-H students are not allowed to show their animals unless they are registered in the NAIS.  In Florida, retired bureaucrats working for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (largely funded by the USDA), are tracking down private landowners and counting livestock animals - with or without the owner's permission.

Now, Collin Peterson, Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, has decided he doesn't care what the farmers and ranchers want.  He has decided to slip the NAIS into the Farm Bill by attaching it to a previously-enacted law, Country of Origin Labeling.  

Peterson is saying:  if Americans want to know what foreign country provides the meat in their hamburger, every livestock animal in America is going to be tagged, registered into a national database, and all movements reported the  USDA.  

This trade-off has nothing to do with health, or safety; it has everything to do with big bucks for the big processors - and their Congressional friends.   Currently, meat products from god-knows-where can be imported and incorporated into hamburger, hot dogs, and other processed meats now sold as American meat.  With Country of Origin Labeling, these meat products would have to disclose the origin of the meat contents - like every other imported product.  Have you ever seen the "Made in China" disclosure on almost everything?  Why not have your hamburger package say: "30% of this product made in Uganda," or some other country. 

Because it would scare the "sale" out of a lot of people, and the big processors know it.  That's precisely why the NIAA, the National Cattle and Beef Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the major meat processors do not want Country of Origin Labeling, but do want National Animal Identification.  This way, the big guys can keep on selling whatever they import from whatever source - and call it U.S. meat.  And with NAIS, they can also export U.S. prime meat into countries that now require an electronic trace-back system - whether the system works or not. 

The big guys, and their Congressional enablers, make out like gangbusters while the farmers and ranchers pay the costs and do the work.  ESR

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

 

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