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NAIS: The politicians’ dream
A group of intercity teenagers were touring a rural farm and the owner was providing some facts of life with real on-site demonstrations. An old milk cow was used to demonstrate the origin of milk. As the farmer squeezed one of the four vertical appendages a huge white stream of milk squirted in a rainbow arc to the ground, right in front of the big-eyed viewers’ feet. In shocked amazement, one boy turned ash white and fainted straightforward, flat on the ground. This young man demonstrated the early signs of becoming a senator and creating legislation to govern rural livestock producers.

With similar livestock backgrounds, Congress and the Senate have created the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Every horse, goat, bovine, zoo animal, rabbit, chicken, turkey, hog and even a producing parakeet ( will be required to be numbered. With a government estimate of 9 billion living creatures qualified for this numbering system, soon to be mandatory, with up to $1,000 fines per day for noncompliance, savvy, alert livestock producers are “going bonkers.”

The USDA is not projecting the cost to livestock owners for NAIS compliance. The required equipment for the owner of one or more animals, for the first ear tag number of the first critter will be well over $1000, with added annual update costs. Each time an animal goes to a show, sale or transfers ownership a computer entry is required. The average steer is owned by eight different people during a less than 30 month life. The consumer is the eighth owner after the cow calf, backgrounder, trader, feeder, etc.

Under USDA rules for the NAIS program that would require seven computer entries not counting lost tags and labor of scanners. If this sounds like a nightmare that we don’t need, read the federal website where they explain how important this NAIS is. Even their “spin” on the process still scares people to death (

The USDA has historically been the rancher’s friend. They have been right on top of any disease that hit this nation or any other country. In fact, the Texas State Auditor checked the program out and found that, “Texas Animal Health Commission has in place established systems and processes used for the surveillance of livestock and for the prevention, eradication, and control of livestock diseases. Audit testing verified that the Agency has in place processes to test livestock for diseases, monitor the movement of livestock, and take action on diseased livestock.” Therefore, as per this audit of the largest livestock state, all is well. The addition of another layer of government, NAIS, is not needed.

Without shame, the USDA has blown an $86 million budget trying to sell NAIS to the livestock producers. It is not selling well in the private sector. Last month USDA asked Congress for another $33 million. And Congress passed the new budget like a clown shot from a circus cannon.

Did your Congressman vote to add this new layer of higher government cost on every cow in your herd? Check his voting record - more than 300 members of Congress voted for it.

The main talking point for NAIS by the USDA Secretary is that we must regain the export market for beef. According to him, every cattle person is losing $10 to $14 per beef steer as a result of the closed Japanese market. This is what the Secretary says ... now how about the facts? The truth is, the last few years cattlemen have enjoyed the highest steer prices in history.

How hard is that to understand? Where is the $14 loss? Get out your calculator. There are 296 million people in the USA (2000 census) who eat 68 pounds of beef each year. The average retail yield per processed steer is 450 pounds, so we need annually 44.728 million head of slaughter animals. We actually kill 27 million head annually in the USA. That means for every steak we could ship to Japan we will want to import four steaks to supply the home demand. We lost the export war years ago and our USDA still doesn’t know it. (I wonder if they know where milk comes from?)

While the USDA is spending another $33 million selling NAIS, anti-NAIS groups are being formed in every state. Check with Google and pull up “NAIS opposition.” It will show more than 100,000 places where animal owners don’t want anything to do with NAIS.

What will it cost to number 9 billion living bodies in the USA and keep track of them? Who will pay for this effort? Actually two distinct groups will pay every penny; they are the taxpayers who don’t own critters and the taxpayers who do own critters. This is not a one-time deal. It will involve every newborn calf and parakeet from now until eternity.

If you are concerned about the most expensive and largest tax/inventory program on livestock in our lifetime, call your government leaders at the state and national level. Have a friendly chat, the election is coming up.

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Check and see what your congressman knows about our industry. Ask him where milk comes from. If he understands that much, maybe he’s ready to listen to the facts about the beef business.

-Jason Page
Vice President, International Texas Longhorn Assn., Kingwood, Texas

This farm news was published in the June 28, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.