|Issue #19.09 :: 02/27/2007 - 03/05/2007|
Farmers head to Washington
Vocal locals oppose national animal I.D. system
|BY MEG MCEVOY|
|In 2005, a law was passed that said Albemarle farmer John Coles couldn’t sell his unpasteurized goat cheese anymore. Coles now makes his living selling vegetables, grown at his farm off Route 29 about eight miles north of Fashion Square Mall, and gives away pounds of cheese on a donation-only basis.|
Like many small farmers, he’s opposed to more regulations on what he can and can’t do with his homegrown products. Coles is also not a fan of a law that would require all farms with livestock to register and tag animals with radio transmitters.
The Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (VICFA) (www.vicfa.net) joined with similar groups from surrounding states at a reception and lobbying event at the Cannon House Office Building.
“We had a small army of volunteers,” says Deborah Stockton, editor of the VICFA VOICE newsletter. The group faxed invitations to every member of Congress and laid out a spread of locally grown food. They had eight congressmen turn out, plus several dozen more congressional staffers and aides. Among those at the reception was Virginia’s 5th district representative Virgil Goode, who sported a VICFA button and sipped on raw milk.
Though small farmers face many issues, VICFA’s main beef is with NAIS.
“The reason they’re doing this is to prevent mad cow disease and avian flu,” says Coles. “But these are problems that only exist in [big] agro-business.”
Originally, the federal government announced NAIS would be mandatory by 2009. Due to grassroots opposition, according to Stockton, the USDA has turned their attention to the state level, awarding grants to state departments of agriculture who require animal tagging and premises registration. The national website now emphasizes that the program is “voluntary.”
Stockton says February’s event was a good start towards battling NAIS, and they’re already planning another event for next year.
“The biggest problem facing us it that we are not real to [legislators],” she says. “They legislate according to industrial agriculture.”