Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
What the USDA Does Not Say at NAIS Meetings 

To the Editor:

I read the article about the National Animal I.D. discussion at the 2006 Common Ground Country Fair ( The USDA’s slick NAIS presentation is peppered with innocuous facts about the need to be protected from such diseases as foot and mouth, avian flu and mad cow. By the time the question and answer session comes, folks are wondering about registering premises (like convicted sex offenders have to do?), microchipping (at what cost?), filing movement reports (What if a coyote takes a chicken, or one reported missing returns with babies?), how and why to microchip a chicken that costs less than the chip, what to do about trail rides, why only 24 hours are given to report movements, what it costs to file reports, how secure is the database, what if my computer crashes and I miss the 24 hour deadline, what about people who do not own computers, and will I get paid for depopulation? The answer to most of these is, "We don't know but sign up anyway!"

Some things not mentioned at those meetings include:

Disease protocols are already in place and they work. NAIS claims to provide 48-hour disease trace-back, but this addresses disease only after the fact. If disease is suspected, the USDA can "depopulate" a 6-mile radius (140 square miles).

NAIS was designed to benefit corporate agriculture/factory farms to show the world the U.S. has safe meat. (That is where "depopulation" comes in handy. Wipe out Farmer Jones' herd so that a multinational corporation can sell beef globally.) 

Registering your premises clouds title to your property. The words "stakeholder," "premises" and "national herd” are used for a reason.

Factory farms get one lot number per groups of animals, so any of those animals could be sick; the rest of us have to microchip every animal, report births, deaths and off-property movements. The USDA does not realize that NAIS a NOT a one-size-fits-all program; there is a huge difference between granny's backyard hens, a pot belly pig in suburbia and the multi-billion dollar corporate factory farms.

The USDA tried to slip NAIS in on us. A few years ago, when no one knew what NAIS was, fewer than 20 comments were received during the comment period on its Web site. Now that we are commenting in droves, the USDA publishes a booklet on dealing with those opposing NAIS, claiming we are spreading misinformation. How is it misinformation to disagree with a program that could put most small producers out of business?

Those involved with NAIS are the "big" guys in ag and the horse business AND the microchip companies (Digital Angel) who stand to make millions. Not one backyard breeder was asked for input into NAIS regulations.

The USDA does not have power or authority to enforce NAIS. While claiming NAIS is "voluntary on the federal level" and free to sign up, it sends your tax dollars to state governments, pressuring them to make NAIS mandatory, and uses tax dollars to bribe 4H and FFA to sign themselves and others up.

If this program is so wonderful, why are so many anti-NAIS Web sites popping up? Why are small producers getting their lawyers involved? A Penn State Survey on horse ID shows people 2 to 1 against NAIS. For more information, see,,,,,

– Susan Barackman
Paris, Texas  

Questions MOF&G Advertiser

To the Editor:

As Maine's lead organization on organic and local food, it was truly disturbing to find a full-page ad for Hannaford in your summer newspaper. While Hannaford has been promoting "local" and "organic,” it is hard to find much of either in their stores, particularly since the corporate owner is $25 billion Belgian industry giant Delhaize.

In attempting to determine where Hannaford's "Nature's Place" milk hails from, the packaging states "DZA Brands.” DZA is the stock market symbol for Delhaize America, Hannaford's parent company. One can only assume that this milk comes from a factory farm – a huge feedlot with "organic" feed (see the Cornucopia Institute report on organic milk).

Delhaize uses the law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld for lobbying. Akin, Gump is well known for lobbying on behalf of chemical companies and for anti-labor litigation, and is particularly known for defending Food Lion (another Delhaize subsidiary) against charges of unsanitary handling of meat and fish.

"Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" pointed out that store's shortcomings, but the same issues are inherent with giants like Delhaize and Star Market (Shaw's parent). Hannaford and Shaw's may be a little smaller than Wal-Mart, but they operate on the same principle: to make as much money as possible for shareholders. That leads to suppression of wages, wiping out local competition, denying basic health care, acquiring products from questionable sources, and lobbying to relax organic standards.

Please consider advertising standards for MOFGA’s newspaper that match MOFGA’s commitment to organic and local foods.


– Tim Sullivan

(Disclaimer: I am the manager of the Good Tern Natural Foods Co-Op & Café, though I am not writing this in that official capacity.)

Russell Libby Responds

In an ideal world we’d have enough strong local markets to support the many organic farms in Maine and elsewhere, and consumers would look to those market outlets first. For the past 50 years, the distribution system has moved to larger and larger outlets. Right now most of our 70 organic dairy farms and another dozen or so vegetable and fruit farmers rely on these larger markets for all or part of their business. MOFGA welcomes discussions on how to get more local and organic food into more local outlets. Thanks for starting a larger conversation on these important issues.
MOF&G Cover Winter 07-08
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