A while ago I talked about the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association (SDSGA) circulating petitions in opposition to NAIS. I just heard from Carrie Stadheim Executive Director of the SDSGA on this issue and wanted to share some interesting information that was passed on to me.
It seems that after the SDSGA launched it's petiton drive the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, the paper from the largest city in South Dakota, chastised the SDSGA for circulating these petitions. I would be more than happy to link the editorial if the Argus Leader allowed it but they seem to have a policy that you have to pay for articles older than 7 days from the present so I can't link it. I will provide the text of the editorial here in it's entirity, as given to me, unedited for all to see.
Article Published: 03/4/06, 3:42 am
Forget the petitions.
(by: Sioux Falls Argus Leader Editorial Board)
A national livestock ID system is coming, and we need it - regardless what the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association says.
The association is gathering signatures on a petition to oppose the program.
"We've got the ability to track our livestock right now. Why in the world would our government want to impose the most burdensome and expensive mandate upon the most independent and low-profit segment of the beef supply chain, the cattle producer?" asked Kenny Fox of Belvidere, chairman of the association's Animal ID Committee.
Having the "ability" and doing it can be two different things. The tracking system is akin to Gov. Mike Rounds' South Dakota Certified Beef program - which seeks to prove to everyone that our beef is produced in a certain way and that we know its origin.
This isn't about expensive mandates. It's about mad cow disease and proving to everyone - especially foreign buyers - that we know what's going on with our livestock.
If we already were doing everything we could, there wouldn't be widespread support for this across the country. Support from consumers, if not producers.
We're going to have a national ID program. The only question is what form it will take.
This petition is stirring producers up, when there's not a prayer of it accomplishing anything.
SDSGA responded to the paper with a letter of thier own but at this time the Argus Leader has seen unfit to print the response. I post it here for all to read and enjoy.
I received your recent editorial about animal id via e-mail.
Iâ€™m curious what makes your editorial board so knowledgeable regarding the U.S. cattle industryâ€™s â€œneeds.â€ (â€œA national livestock ID system is coming, and we need it - regardless what the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association says.â€) After all â€“ our members are ranchers who make a living raising cattle â€“ what expertise do your editors claim in cattle production?
Producers from Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma and all over South Dakota are circulating petitions. Obviously they believe the proposed id program brings with it more costs than benefits.
You mention that having the ability to track cattle and actually doing it are two different things. Youâ€™re right, but obviously the two are not mutually exclusive. It just so happens that brand inspection areas such as Western South Dakota are not only capable of tracking our cattle, we ARE DOING it already. Every day. We record movement of cattle every time they change ownership or travel outside of Western South Dakota. In fact, when Canada discovered their very first case of BSE, the Montana Department of Livestock contacted our chief brand inspector about some bulls that had been sold from Canada into Montana, and subsequently into South Dakota. The bulls were half brothers to the infected cow. Within about three hours, our chief brand inspector called the Montana department back with full details about the movements of each bull, all the way to slaughter. And the Governor of Montana commended him with a personal letter of thanks.
Tattoos are another nearly permanent and very low-cost method of identification. Several states still require brucellosis tags and tattoos on breeding stock, and while S.D. is not one of those states, a good share of S.D. producers bangs vaccinate, tag and tattoo their breeding herd - yet another tracking system already in existence.
I hate to burst your bubble, but sticking a tag in an animalâ€™s ear DOES NOT provide any sort of assurance of quality or animal health. Industry integrity and profitability all the way from the producer to the retailer, is the ONLY thing that can provide that assurance. Contrary to the boasts made by supporters of the NAIS, tags can be cut out, lost and tampered with. A brand is forever.
You say that this is about proving to foreign customers that â€œwe know whatâ€™s going on with our livestock.â€ How does a tag prove that? Obviously USDA has tainted our credibility with Japan by allowing shipment of bone-in beef. This had absolutely nothing to do with the presence or absence of a tag, and everything to do with a lackadaisical agency who is a â€œwatchdogâ€ only when itâ€™s convenient and politically acceptable to the multinational food companies.
And Iâ€™d like to see proof of your alleged â€œsupport from consumersâ€ for a mandatory animal id system. Our organization has yet to talk to a consumer who would feel safer buying beef from a steer that lived its life with a computer chip in its ear. You might not be aware that the proposed national animal id program is not intended to provide one shred of information to consumers. No farm, state or country of origin labeling information. Nothing. Consumers would still be unable to identify whether the hamburger in their grocery cart bearing that same old USDA stamp is a product of Canada, Japan, Mexico, Ecuador or all of the above.
Consumers have teamed up with grassroots producers to lobby diligently for mandatory country of origin labeling, yet have been out-dollared and out-maneuvered by the meat packing giants and their pocket politicians. The reader responses on your website regarding this issue indicate that consumers want country of origin labeling, not necessarily animal id.
I maintain that the only supporters of an unnecessary mandatory animal identification program are the companies who stand to sell billions of dollars worth of equipment, the USDA who wants a feather in their cap by deceptively claiming that they are somehow â€œmanaging diseaseâ€ and the large meatpacking companies who want ever more information about the location, age and number of livestock worldwide to give them more control over the market.
If the USDA would protect our borders from unsafe imports of beef and cattle, the threat of a disease outbreak would substantially decline.
I look forward to continued correspondence,
It sure seems like the Editorial Staff of the Argus Leader got their hand slapped hard on this one. Probably why they won't print the response.
The SDSGA is taking the right tack on the NAIS. Fight it and fight it hard. Don't be afraid to come out swinging. I applaud them and hope more orginazations take the same tack.
An eartag never stopped a disease, but it sure gets an industry up in arms.