The USDA Shell Game on
"Voluntary" versus "Mandatory"
Participation in NAIS
By Randy Givens
November 16, 2006
Recently, the USDA changed the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) web page to infer that it is now USDA policy and position that NAIS will be a voluntary system instead of the mandatory system that they have been pushing for several years. However, what is written and what they intend for you to believe are two entirely different things.
As the change is written, it is designed to lead the reader to believe that USDA has changed its policy and position to oppose the mandatory imposition of NAIS. However, that is NOT what their written words mean. Their statement is carefully cloaked in Washington Bureaucratese, designed to keep the average citizen from determining exactly what the bureaucrats intend.
The exact reasons for that inferred change in policy and position have never been publicly stated. However, the nationwide rising tide of anger and grassroots opposition to NAIS, as animal owners realize the magnitude of government interference being foisted on them, probably had much to do with it. The fact that it was occurring in an election year may have also influenced that decision.
The purported change has been expressed in several ways, all designed to convince the uninitiated that they now do not have to worry that NAIS will be forced on them as a mandatory system. By doing so, USDA apparently hopes to defuse the growing opposition to NAIS. Do not be bamboozled by their fancy tap dancing with words. The following analysis will show you what they wrote, and what they probably mean to have you live with.
In the main part of their NAIS web page USDA states:
NAIS is currently a voluntary program. To ensure the participation requirements of NAIS not only provide the results necessary to maintain the health of the national herd but also is a program that is practical for producers and all others involved in production, USDA has adopted a phased-in approach to implementation. Although the draft strategic plan references mandatory requirements in 2008 and beyond, to date no actions have been initiated by USDA to develop regulations to require participation in NAIS. APHIS will publish updates to the implementation plan as recommendations are received and evaluated by the NAIS Subcommittee and the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Foreign Animal and Poultry Diseases.
A bit further down the page, USDA added the following statement at the end of October 2006:
The NAIS is a voluntary program and the USDA has no intention of considering regulations at the federal level. The April 2006 Implementation Plan that referenced a contingency option for regulations if participation levels did not reach adequate levels has been discarded to reflect the policy and position of USDA.
In the first part, note that they state that "NAIS is currently a voluntary program." If USDA did not want to leave the door open for you ultimately having to live under a mandatory program, all they had to do was delete the word "currently." As written, what they mean is, "NAIS is currently being sold as a voluntary program, but that does not block us from later turning it into a mandatory program."
Continuing in that same first part, USDA tries to throw the reader off by saying that "Although the draft strategic plan references mandatory requirements in 2008 and beyond, to date no actions have been initiated by USDA to develop regulations to require participation in NAIS." That doesn't mean anything. Bureaucrats establish a program first, then they write the regulations to implement it later on. All this statement shows is that they did not get around to writing any regulations.
Their "out" on a later change to mandating participation is hidden in the following phrase, when they state: "APHIS will publish updates to the implementation plan as recommendations are received and evaluated by the NAIS Subcommittee and the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Foreign Animal and Poultry Diseases." What that statement means is that they will initially try and sell NAIS as a "voluntary" program. When they get full authorization and funding for that part, and get the machinery up and running nationwide, they will then get more "findings and recommendations" from their chosen experts, which will then cause them to "reevaluate" their program and make a new finding that, "to protect us," NAIS must become a mandatory program. Among Washington insiders, this ploy is known as "The Truth Changes." When you protest that NAIS was supposed to be purely voluntary, they respond with "Yes, but we have new information and The Truth Changes."
The second part of the web page quoted above hides even more bureaucratic chicanery.
"The NAIS is a voluntary program and the USDA has no intention of considering regulations at the federal level. The April 2006 Implementation Plan that referenced a contingency option for regulations if participation levels did not reach adequate levels has been discarded to reflect the policy and position of USDA."
This phrasing hides the fact that the USDA's plan – before the April 2006 Plan – specifically called for federal regulations to be proposed last summer, in 2006, to establish a mandatory program throughout the U.S. They then changed the plan to call for a "contingency option" of establishing a mandatory program. As opposition built, and they realized they had no real Congressional approval for such a plan, they decided to use the "Golden Rule" to impose their will upon us. In this ploy, they use federal funding to entice state agencies to do exactly what the federal agency wants, without having to potentially put the feds in the hot seat of having to defend offensive federal regulations. That way, they never have to write federal regulations at the federal level, and they get the state agencies to do their dirty work for them. They probably distribute "model" mandatory rules to state agencies at meetings USDA convenes and pays for. Evidence of this strategy showed up in Texas, when the Texas Animal Health Commission tried to impose rules for a mandatory program. That effort was delayed. Along with Texas, several states have begun to implement mandatory state programs. Included among them are Wisconsin and Indiana which passed regulations for mandatory premises registration. Michigan has the first mandatory RFID tagging system, which is acknowledged to be a precursor to the NAIS in that state, and to be funded with federal money. Many other states, have started to wave the sabre of their broad authority to "protect animal health," and aren't bothering with statutes. All of these states get federal funding, based on how many farms are "voluntarily" registered. This way, the feds get what they want, but will claim it was all the states' doing.
Notice at the end of that segment, USDA states: "... has been discarded to reflect the policy and position of USDA." That is intended to make you believe that a new USDA policy and position opposes mandatory NAIS. However, that is NOT what they wrote. Note that they have not published the "policy and position of USDA." That's because what they intend is to sneak in a nationwide mandatory NAIS, one state at a time, with the dirty work being done by the state agencies. It's the old "Take the King's coin, do the King's bidding!" Even if they do publish such a new policy, remember "policy" is written by bureaucrats, not Congress, and it can be changed back by the bureaucrats at any time.
Part of their deception plan is to have you believe that new political appointees in USDA are making those changes. Remember, many people have gone to Washington, intent on cleaning up that mess, and have failed. Even if it were true that the new guys really want to set up a truly voluntary NAIS, the reality is that USDA is still infected with the bureaucrats who have been trying to shove a mandatory NAIS down our throats for several years. Leopards generally do not change their spots, even if there is a new cat in the jungle – and USDA had not really changed its intention that NAIS be mandatory in every state in the union. They're just paying the state agencies to write the rules and implement it for them.
Do not be misled by soothing words by government officials. Statements by government officials are not enforceable, do not have the effect of law, and are not worth the paper on which they are not written.