Rocky Mountain Farmers Union will have representatives on hand at the USDA listening session on June 1 at the Larimer County Fairgrounds to express opposition to the financial burdens the National Animal Identification System will put on family farmers and ranchers.
“We’re expecting quite a crowd,” said RMFU President Kent Peppler, a Mead, Colo., farmer. “If the USDA makes registration in this program mandatory, it will be a nail in the coffin for small producers.”
The USDA is moving to make NAIS mandatory. In April, the USDA released a cost-benefit analysis produced by Kansas State University. “Their own cost analysis makes it clear that small producers, such as cattle growers with fewer than 50 head, will bear the brunt of the costs,” Peppler said.
According to the KSU study, a producer with fewer than 50 cattle would spend $6 on NAIS compliance, as compared to a cost of 60 cents a head for a large factory operation. An independent expert estimated the real cost for a small operation as closer to $40 per head.
Similar disparities exist for every form of livestock. A chicken farmer with fewer than 2,000 chickens sold annually would pay 50 cents per chicken for compliance, while a factory farm with will pay 50 cents per 2,500 chickens.
“Fifty cents for a chicken may not sound like much, but that works out to about 10 cents a pound, and the farmer only gets about 45 cents a pound for his broilers,” Peppler said. “That farmer will need to get 55 cents a pound just to break even, and he’ll be competing with a factory farm that didn’t get hit with a 10-cent increase in costs. A mandatory NAIS program will destroy what little profit there is in small-scale ranching, be it traditional, natural, free range or organic. It’s disappointing that just when American consumers are beginning to understand what’s wrong with our food system, the USDA should be moving to give factory farming a new competitive advantage. Anyone who cares about the real issues of food safety should try to be at the listening session.”