MOFGAQuestions Proposed Animal ID System

Spring 2006

By Diane Schivera

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, working closely with livestock industry representatives, has proposed a system that would require all farms in the country to be registered and all animals to have a formal identification system. The National Animal ID System (NAIS), as proposed, would require that all premises in the country that have farm animals be registered by January 2008; animal identification systems be in place by January 2008; and animal tracking systems, with a recordkeeping system to track any animal movement from the farm to slaughter, be in place by January 2009. The goal is to be able to trace the location of origin of any contaminated animal within 48 hours to stop outbreaks of potential diseases.

These originally proposed standards would be difficult for many small livestock farms to meet. Not only would animals have to be tagged somehow – ear tags, electronic chips or tattoos are possibilities – but forms would have to be completed and submitted, with birth and death records, to the Department of Agriculture whenever an animal left the farm for any reason. Farmers will have to pay for their own compliance costs, for the ID system they choose and for the system to meet all the paperwork requirements.

Maine has been moving forward with a voluntary program (IDME) that would be a precursor to participation in the National Program.

At a recent Legislative hearing, Russell Libby from MOFGA opposed authorizing legislation for the Department to move forward with this program. The Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee eventually passed a bill that will require the Department to come back to the Committee for review of any rules that are developed.

MOFGA’s concerns are related, primarily, to the uncertainty that surrounds the process at this time. These include: registration of noncommercial premises; costs of the program, which will be borne by the producer; inclusion of nonfood species (e.g., horses) in the program; keeping information stored in Maine and confidential; integrating existing animal identification programs into the broader IDME program; and providing ways to get information to producers that educate more than regulating activity.

This program continues to move forward. We all need to be aware of potential animal diseases and act together to identify and resolve potential problems. MOFGA will continue to work closely with the Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension and other agencies to prevent disease outbreaks and to structure any animal identification program to be sensitive to the needs and concerns of small farmers.

Whether you have a commercial dairy farm or a few backyard hens, MOFGA encourages you to study this issue (Web sites are listed below) and to look seriously at exemptions; confidentiality (which the federal government would not guarantee, due to the Freedom of Information Act); the possibility of using existing ID systems (such as the scrapie program for sheep and the National Organic Program) in conjunction with this new program; and the difficulty of tagging certain animals – such as fish in aquaculture operations. This will be considered a major rule so it must come back to the committee before becoming a law.

To voice your opinion, contact your local legislators and the IDME program coordinator, Judy Perry, at 287-4507, [email protected],

To contact federal officials, see Stop Animal ID at action/contactgov.php. Form letters for writing to elected officials are at

See also: Americans_Against_NAIS/ and www.the­petition ltl=1137005582.

You can also write to the USDA APHIS NAIS at [email protected]. gov – list your farm animal type in the subject line.

Finally, according to the Dairy Alert email newsletter of Jan. 25, 2006, published by Dairy Herd Management, USDA officials are considering a new approach for national animal identification that would link a network of private and state-operated animal-tracking databases rather than requiring a single national database – possibly removing the impasse that has developed over who would run a single database.

DianeSchivera, MOFGA’s assistant director of technical services, specializes in animal science. You can reach her at 207-568-4142 or [email protected].


Livestock Health Workshop – Friday, April 14, 2006

MOFGA will present a day long workshop focusing on holistic livestock health care. Our speakers have long experience with organic animal care. While their first interest is dairy cattle, much of the information presented will apply to all species. The methods will include herbs, homeopathy, biologics and management techniques. Each presenter will also leave plenty of time for questions.


Hubert Karreman, VMD – Dr. Karreman with his wife Becky, run Penn Dutch Cow Care in Lancaster County, PA. It is a practice dedicated to working with dairy farmers who are ecologically motivated and prefer natural treatments for their cows. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, Pennsylvania Certified Organic, and the Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association. Dr. Karreman recently has been appointed to a 5 year term as a member of the National Organic Standards Board, an advisory board to the USDA National Organic Program. He will speak primarily on Mastitis and Young Stock Care.

Jim and Nancy Gardiner – The Gardiners have a 50 cow, mostly holstein, forage based dairy farm in Otselic, NY. They run the farm with the help of three of their children. Jim and Nancy have been farming organically since 1989 and working with holistic health care methods for even longer. They will present information about the basic principle of holistic medicine; preventative health care. They will also present treatments for various health issues and answer your questions.


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