As one commenter put it:
I am so confused. How is tracking the legal animals going to stop his scenario of the ham sandwich? Are we going to catch and tag the feral pigs too? Will those pigs be mingling with the legal pigs at a rave or a mixer? How, exactly, will knowing who owns what animals help track where the feral pigs go? I don't own farm animals at this time but this simply doesn't make any sense. Tracing cows back to the source for mad cow disease, I can understand. Tracking an infected, wayward ham sandwich? Really?
9/14/2009 8:28:47 AM
September 14, 2009
Livestock tracking program upsets some in Southwest Florida
By AMY BENNETT WILLIAMS
Michelle Musco doesn't mind telling the feds about her goats - all six of them: Nubians, pygmies and Boers that her two sons care for as members of the 4-H Goats-R-Us club.
Musco, who lives in Buckingham, is one of hundreds of Lee County residents who have voluntarily signed up for a government program to identify and track farm animals in the U.S.
"It was very easy - very user-friendly," Musco said about the sign-up process.
The federal government embarked on the massive effort to locate every livestock animal in the country - from cattle to backyard geese to 4-H hogs - in 2002.
The first part of the National Animal Identification System, now under way, is registering every place such animals live or stay temporarily, such as auction houses.
Although it's voluntary and free, the program may become mandatory in the future, said Stephen Monroe, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Florida's NAIS coordinator.
The second part would be identifying animals - whether with an ear tag, a microchip leg band or other label - and placing them into a federal database. That hasn't happened yet, and may not, depending on funding and the public's reaction, said Vermont farmer Walter Jeffries, who heads up NONAIS, a group that opposes the program."They've gone back and forth on if it will be mandatory, voluntary or abandoned," Jeffries wrote in an e-mail. "Congress cut their funding for NAIS to the bone (and) at this point things are quiet. We'll see what happens."
Although Jeffries and others in some parts of the country are up in arms about the program, in Lee County, no one has kicked up too much of a fuss.
"We've had some angry folks in some places," said Monroe, "people who've accused us of being Big Brother or working for the tax man, but it's not true."
At a listening session in
Austin, Texas, one of 14 held throughout the country, some attendees - mostly farmers - accused the government of lying, conspiring with corporations and wasting money (transcripts are at animalid.aphis.usda.gov).
So far, 220 livestock owners in Lee County have registered, Monroe said. Statewide, the total's about 7,800 - about 30 percent, he estimates.
One of those who hasn't heard of it or signed up is John Domanski of Buckingham, who raises a few dozen chickens, ducks and geese.
"I just don't do that much business," Domanski said, "and most of what I sell goes from here to the cook pot. It seems like it would be a big paperwork burden and the time you'd have to spend would make it prohibitive."
The program is designed to "protect the health of U.S. livestock and poultry and the economic well-being of those industries ... to quickly and effectively trace an animal disease to its source," according to its Web site.
Florida's borders are very porous, with animals and people coming in and out by the millions, Monroe said - some potentially infected with deadly illness.
"We're one sandwich away from a disaster like foot-and-mouth (a contagious disease of hoofed animals)," Monroe said. "Say someone comes from Europe with an infected ham sandwich, but when they take it out in Lee County, it smells funny so they toss it out the window. Feral pigs come along, eat it and then they spread the disease to horses, cows, goats and all of a sudden, we're behind the 8-ball." (A sandwich away???? OMG! - HEN)
"The only chance of containing the disease is knowing where the animals are. It's all about traceability," Monroe said.