Copyright 2007 by Mary Zanoni. The following article may be distributed solely for personal and non-commercial use without prior permission from the author. Non-commercial distribution and posting to assist in disseminating information about NAIS is, in fact, encouraged, so long as proper credit is given and the article is reproduced without changes or deletions. Any other distribution or republication requires the author’s permission in writing and requests for such permission should be directed to the author at the address/phone/e-mail address below.
The 2006 Agricultural Identification Survey and the NASS/NAIS Identity
Like many small-farm advocates, I have been fielding questions over the past few weeks about the above survey being sent out by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Many people ask if there is any relationship between the survey and the data being collected (often without the knowledge or consent of farmers) for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). As we shall see, although USDA personnel won’t admit it, NASS data is the foundation of the USDA’s aggressive pursuit of NAIS.
Returning to the first page of the form, we see the wide net growing ever wider. The form states: “Many people who don’t consider themselves farmers or ranchers actually meet the definition of a farm or ranch and are important to agriculture.” “We need your completed form even though you may not be actively farming, ranching, or conducting any other type of agricultural activity.” Finally, the first page of the form reinforces the threat of the “REQUIRED BY LAW” language of the envelope:
“ ‘Response to this survey is legally required by Title 7, U.S. Code.’ ” (Emphasis in original.) (Note the single-double quotation marks – the threat actually is in quotation marks, employing that common tenth-grade stylistic conceit of “quoting” something to make it appear extra-important.) One senses evasions aplenty here -- the form has referred to the “definition of a farm or ranch” but nowhere tells us that definition. It suggests that anyone receiving a form has a legal obligation to answer it, even though their enterprise may not meet the definition of a “farm.”