This is my first draft of a letter I plan to send to a couple of local newspapers, plus my state and federal reps. Feel free to use any of it yourself if you like. It's too long now but I thought I'd toss it out for comments. :hobbyhors I am writing to voice my concern about the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) being promoted by the USDA. This program, implemented in 2004, is designed to identify and track every livestock animal in the US, to âprotect American animal agriculture from foreign or domestic disease threats.â (USDA website). The goal is to be able to track a diseased animal back to its place of origin within 48 hours. It sounds great. It sounds safe. Reading the USDA and WV Dept. of Agriculture literature makes me want to hop right on the bandwagon. But wait. After brushing away all the hype and rhetoric, what does NAIS really entail? Every farm gets a premise ID, uniquely identifying it in a national database. In addition, animals must be identified. Large groups of livestock which are always moved as a unit get a single animal ID. Small farmers who may sell a few sheep at an auction must ID each animal individually. The movement of the animals is then tracked. That doesn't sound too bad. How might this affect me? I have a flock of chickens for eggs and meat. I have to register my premises and pay a fee. I have to fill out paperwork and note when every chick is born, and pay a fee for that too. I have to figure out how to uniquely ID each chick and pay for that. If a chick wanders off or gets killed by a coyote I have to fill out paperwork and report that. If I sell or trade a rooster, I have to report that. If one of my children wants to show an attractive chicken at a fair or use it as a 4-H project, we have to fill out paperwork and document every time the chicken leaves the premises. That sounds pretty expensive and time consuming. Animals subject to NAIS include cattle, bison, horses, goats, poultry, sheep, deer, elk, llamas, alpacas, swine, and aquaculture. If you take your horse to a horse show or a riding trail, you have to fill out paperwork documenting that movement. Any time one of your animals leaves your premises and comingles with other animals, it must be reported. I can see how this is a good program for large producers of our nation's beef or pork supply, despite the fact that we haven't had a single case of mad cow disease or avian flu in the US. It makes good management sense for them and, because they move and track huge groups of animals at a time, it is not cost prohibitive. For the small farmer, or backyard farmer, it makes no sense at all. If I buy one of my neighbor's pigs, I know exactly where that meat came from. There is no need to have it entered in a national registry. The small farmer who is already working on a tight margin will likely be driven out of business by this program because he simply does not have the money, time, or staff to deal with the required fees, tagging, and paperwork. This program is slated to be mandatory by 2008. I urge everyone reading this letter to educate themselves about the NAIS. Excellent starting points are http://www.usda.gov/nais/ (pro) and http://NoNAIS.org (con).