Tag! We're IT!!

Discussion in 'The Chatter Box' started by heavenlyhaven, Mar 11, 2009.

  1. heavenlyhaven

    heavenlyhaven Senior Member

    Apr 16, 2008
    Belmont, NY
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    http://www.nytimes. com/2009/ 03/11/opinion/ 11hayes.html
    The New York Times <http://www.nytimes. com/>
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    March 11, 2009
    Op-Ed Contributor

    Tag, We’re It


    Warnerville, N.Y.

    AT first glance, the plan by the federal Department of Agriculture to
    battle disease among farm animals is a technological marvel: we farmers
    tag every head of livestock in the country with ID chips and the
    department electronically tracks the animals’ whereabouts. If disease
    breaks out, the department can identify within 48 hours which animals
    are ill, where they are, and what other animals have been exposed.

    At a time when diseases like mad cow and bird flu have made consumers
    worried about food safety, being able to quickly track down the cause of
    an outbreak seems like a good idea. Unfortunately, the plan, which is
    called the National Animal Identification System and is the subject of a
    House subcommittee hearing today, would end up rewarding the factory
    farms whose practices encourage disease while crippling small farms and
    the local food movement.

    For factory farms, the costs of following the procedures for the system
    would be negligible. These operations already use computer technology,
    and under the system, swine and poultry that move through a production
    chain at the same time could be given a single number. On small,
    traditional farms like my family’s, each animal would require its own
    number. That means the cost of tracking 1,000 animals moving together
    through a factory system would be roughly equal to the expense that a
    small farmer would incur for tracking one animal.

    These ID chips are estimated to cost $1.50 to $3 each, depending on the
    quantity purchased. A rudimentary machine to read the tags may be $100
    to $200. It is expected that most reporting would have to be done online
    (requiring monthly Internet fees), then there would be the fee for the
    database subscription; together that would cost about $500 to $1,000
    (conservatively) per year per premise. I estimate the combined cost for
    our farm at $10,000 annually — that’s 10 percent of our gross receipts.

    Imagine the reporting nightmare we would face each May, when 100 ewes
    give birth to 200 lambs out on pasture, and then six weeks later, when
    those pastures are grazed off and the entire flock must be herded a mile
    up the road to a second farm that we rent.

    Add to that the arrival every three weeks of 300 chicks, the three
    500-pound sows that will each give birth to about 10 piglets out in the
    pastures twice per year (and that will attack anyone who comes near
    their babies more fiercely than a junkyard pit bull), then a batch of
    100 baby turkeys, and the free-roaming laying hens. Additional tagging
    and record-keeping would be required for the geese and guinea fowl that
    nest somewhere behind the barn and in the hedgerows, occasionally
    visiting the neighbors’ farms, hatching broods of goslings and keets
    that run wild all summer long.

    Each time one of those animals is sold or dies, or is trucked to a
    slaughterhouse, we would have to notify the Agriculture Department. And
    there would be penalties if we failed to account for a lamb quietly
    stolen by a coyote, and medical bills if we were injured when trying to
    come between a protective sow and her piglets so we could tag them.

    For my family, the upshot would be more expenses and a lot more time
    swearing at the computer. The burden would be even worse for rural
    families that don’t farm full-time, but make ends meet by keeping a
    flock of chickens or a cow for milk. The cost of participating in the
    system would make backyard farming prohibitively expensive.

    So who would gain if the identification system eventually becomes
    mandatory, as the Agriculture Department has hoped? It would help
    exporters by soothing the fears of foreign consumers who have shunned
    American beef. Other beneficiaries would include manufacturers of animal
    tracking systems that stand to garner hefty profits for tracking the
    hundreds of millions of this country’s farm animals. It would also give
    industrial agriculture a stamp of approval despite its use of
    antibiotics, confinement and unnatural feeding practices that increase
    the threat of disease.

    At the same time, the system would hurt small pasture-based livestock
    farms like my family’s, even though our grazing practices and natural
    farming methods help thwart the spread of illnesses. And when small
    farms are full participants in a local food system, tracking a diseased
    animal doesn’t require an exorbitantly expensive national database.

    Cheaper and more effective than an identification system would be a
    nationwide effort to train farmers and veterinarians about proper
    management, bio-security practices and disease recognition. But best of
    all would be prevention. To heighten our food security, we should limit
    industrial agriculture and stimulate the growth of small farms and
    backyard food production around the country.

    The burden for a program that would safeguard agribusiness interests
    would be disproportionately shouldered by small farmers, rural families
    and consumers of locally produced food. Worse yet, that burden would
    force many rural Americans to lose our way of life.

    Shannon Hayes, a farmer, is the author of “The Grassfed Gourmet
    Cookbook” and the forthcoming “Radical Homemakers.”
  2. StaceyRosado

    StaceyRosado Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Oct 4, 2007
    the link didnt work, but great artical!

  3. keren

    keren owned by goats

    Oct 26, 2008
    I didnt read the whole thing but let me tell you, we have electronic National Livestock Identification System/Scheme (NLIS) here for cattle and it is the biggest royal PITA you have ever experienced.

    The theory is nice but in practicality ...