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Friday, January 27, 2006

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs

Here come the
chicken cops

A lot of weird stuff finds its way onto my desk. From UFO sightings to evil government helicopters, I get it all.

Much of it involves supposed government conspiracies.

I got such a letter a couple of weeks ago. Now sometimes I investigate these claims just to satisfy my own curiosity.

But this was so outlandish, so absolutely past reality, that I round-filed it in about a minute.

The subject line read: “Texans to be fined up to $1,000 a day for failing to register if they own ANY horses, cows, goats, birds, etc.”

“Oh come on,” I thought. It was not even very imaginative. Not like semi-invisible helicopters abducting people or jackbooted DEA thugs using armored vehicles to assault a bunch of religious fanatics who made a local D.A. mad.

I blew it off as one more nutso Internet hoax.

A week later, I was sifting through the Associated Press wire when I came across a short piece on animal registration.

And so began my education on the USDA’s National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

Without getting too deep into the multitude of acronyms that government stooges seem to love, here is the long and short of it.

The USDA has worked since 2002 to create mandatory registering of all places where animals exist, and individual identification numbers for all animals. Honest, you cannot make this stuff up.

USDA is coercing state governments, not that they seem to need much poking, to create their own version of NAIS and do all the police work to make people comply.

The feds, however, will issue old Betsy her new number.

The whole initiative is being advanced as a way to help control the spread of infectious diseases.

While the pseudo-scientist who sell their souls for government grants have jumped on the bandwagon (nothing self-serving there) I have a different theory.

My bet is that the real driving force behind this is the big producers and packers.

What better way to control the market than to be able to do a daily count of every head of beef, every dairy heifer and every slaughter pig in the nation?

Mike Johanns, the Secretary of Agriculture (U.S.) who signed off on the USDA plan says as much.

“I belive a fully functional animal tracking system will keep us competitive in international markets, helping us retain and expand our market share. This Department is wholly committed to making NAIS a reality,” Johanns said.

This isn’t about safe food. It is about selling beef to France and Japan.

When wondering about the driving force behind any law - look for the money. Three groups of people will make money off this deal: state funded scientists, big producers and packers, and bureaucrats.

The folks who will pay?

Americans who eat, and small to mid-sized producers of animals that we eat.

Oh yes, and one other group - every stupid sap in the country that owns a parakeet or goat or chicken.

Think I’ve lost it?

Read the regulations that have been proposed by the Texas Animal Health Commission that was empowered by our elected legislative idiots to create this bureaucratic mess when they passed House Bill 1361.

The proposed rules and regulations (which will have the force of law) are available at the web site of the Secretary of State: .

Read them. While you are at it, read the USDA strategic plan for NAIS available on the USDA website.

Here is what you will find.

The USDA has a three-stage plan. First force people to register their premises. That is the stage Texas just began. Second, force people to tag their livestock with individual Animal ID Numbers. (Really, I’m not making this stuff up). Third, institute procedures to track the movements of all animals across the nation.

Texas just began implementation of Phase One - premises registration. Hey, if you register before July of this year, it’s free for the first two years. If you register after that (and it is mandatory with criminal penalties for failure to register) it will cost you $20 every two years.

According to the USDA timeline, individual animal identification will become mandatory in January of 2008. But, they are really just talking about the big guys right? The packing plants, big feed lots, chicken farms?

Wrong. When you read the USDA papers and Texas law, you will find that no person will be untouched by this mess unless it is rewritten.

As currently written, it can be applied to everyone - from the owner of a parakeet in an apartment to the biggest feedlot in Amarillo and every person in between with a goat, chicken, parakeet, cow, horse or anything else defined by the Texas Agriculture Code as livestock, exotic livestock, fowl or exotic fowl.

But, that’s not their intent, right? It’s just sloppy wording, right?

Well, according to everything I can find, if you have a 4H project you, will be forced to register.

That’s the dope the local county extension agents are putting out.

If a kid with a 4H pig is going to have register his home with the feds, then I do not find it hard to believe that when the it comes time for the Animal ID Number phase to be implemented, some chicken cop is going to be snooping around mom’s coop checking to see if we have tagged all the new chicks with their social security bands.

And get this folks, the USDA plans on using radio transmitting devices so that they can track all these cows and chickens. All of them!

Gee, I wonder how much those space-age transmitters will cost?

The Texas bureaucrats have not written the Animal ID rules yet, but judging from how closely the Texas Premises Identification phase mirrors the USDA’s desires, I am betting the next set of rules are carbon copies of the USDA’s.

Can you imagine the bureaucratic nightmare the feds and our own dear state will create from the mere ownership of two horses, a cow and a couple of hens?

And that crack about $1,000-a-day fines?

Yep. Section 50.5 of our proposed regulations allow for penalties as provided by Sections 161.056 and 161.148 of the Texas Agriculture Code for all you criminals out there that fail to register your house with the state. Got a chicken? Failed to register? Child molesters and rapists are subject to lesser penalties.

And you thought the reams of red tape we go through to own and drive a car was an expensive pain in the rear?

There is not much time, but there is some. These new regulations are not yet law but will be early in February. The public comment period provided for by Texas law ends February 6th.

Your state representative and senator need to hear from you if you think this is as insane as I do.

Instead of jumping through hoops to comply like a good little bunch of already registered sheep, we need to be raising the roof in Austin.

And the first public servant (and I use the term very loosely) that suggests you should comply needs to be taken out behind the stock pens and beaten until his or her common sense returns.

Owning a cow or a chicken should not leave you at the mercy of the government.

This is just nuts.

Folks, this is our country. Not the USDA’s and not the big corporate farms’ and not the bureaucrats’.

It’s time we started acting like it. At least the folks you elected to represent you ought to hear from you when a letter about a new law sounds about as sane as a UFO sighting.

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