Mother Earth News Blogs > Homesteading and Livestock

Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Speak Out Against NAIS

By Judith McGeary

Tags: food and agricultural policy, sustainable farms,

Horse's Mouth
Animal owners, consumers and taxpayers:NAIS ALERT! Protect your right to farm and to eat local food.

The USDA has proposed a rule to require all farms and ranches where animals are raised to be registered in a federal database under the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) for existing disease control programs. The draft rule covers programs for cattle, sheep, goats and swine. It also sets the stage for the entire NAIS program to be mandated for everyone, including anyone who owns even one livestock animal (for example, a single chicken or a horse). Learn more about the legislation in The Truth About the Animal ID Plan


It’s critical that the USDA and Congress hear from the hundreds of thousands of people who will be adversely affected by the NAIS program. This includes not only animal owners, but also consumers who care about local and sustainable foods, taxpayers who object to wasteful government programs and advocates for a safer food system.

STEP 1: Submit comments to USDA online or by mail. The comments must be received by the USDA by March 16, 2009. 

Submit comments on the federal regulations website (click on the yellow balloon under “add comments”). 

Or mail two copies of your comments to the USDA at the address below. Clearly state that your comments refer to Docket No. APHIS-2007-0096. (See the sample comments at the end of this post.)

Docket No. APHIS-2007-0096
Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS
Station 3A-03.8
4700 River Road Unit 118
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238 

STEP 2: Send a copy of your comments to your representative and senators. 

You can find who represents you and their contact information at


The USDA has been working for over five years to force NAIS onto American animal owners. NAIS is designed to identify and track each and every individual livestock and poultry animal owned by family farmers, hobby farmers, homesteaders and pet owners across the country.

The USDA claims that NAIS is a disease tracking program, but has refused to provide any support for its claims. In reality, NAIS will:

  • Replace states’ existing, well-functioning disease response and brand inspection programs with an untested, expensive and unreliable system
  • Impose high costs and government surveillance on every farmer and animal owner for no significant benefits, and will likely force many small producers out of business 

NAIS does nothing to improve food safety for consumers or prevent animal diseases. This program is a one-size-fits-all program developed by and for big Agribusiness. NAIS will increase consolidation of our food supply in the hands of a few large companies and put the brakes on the growing movement toward local food systems with its high costs. 

Despite promises to the contrary, the USDA’s new proposed rule would make portions of the system mandatory for thousands of people in every state. Anyone who participates in federal disease control program for cattle, sheep, goats or swine will have their premises registered. The NAIS Premises Identification Number (PIN) will become the only form of premises identification acceptable for USDA animal health purposes, with no opt-out provision. 

The proposed rule would also limit official Animal Identification Numbers to the NAIS-compliant 840-numbering system, laying the groundwork for future regulations that would limit the types of tags that can be used. 

The proposed rule is not final yet. You can help stop NAIS by visiting the Federal Registry and making a comment. Visit their website and click on the yellow balloon under “add comments.” And don’t forget to send a copy of your comments to your elected officials, letting them know how you feel about NAIS. 

The grassroots movement has already successfully stalled the USDA’s plans for NAIS, which originally called for the entire program — premises registration, animal identification and tracking — to be mandatory by January 2009. The proposed rule is an opportunity to get thousands of objections in the formal record, and have an even greater impact. It is imperative that people speak up to protect our right to farm and our food supply! 


Go to or contact Judith McGeary, (512) 243-9404 or

Read more about NAIS and how it will affect small scale and sustainable farms in The Truth About the Animal ID Plan


Date: ____________________ 

Docket No. APHIS-2007-0096
Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS
Station 3A-03.8
4700 River Road Unit 118
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238 

Re: Docket No. APHIS–2007–0096

I urge the USDA to withdraw its proposed rule to implement portions of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), Docket No. APHIS-2007-0096.

I am a _____________________________________________________________________ 


[State who you are — for instance, are you a farmer, consumer, or horse owner — and why this issue matters to you.] 

The proposed rule mandates the NAIS Premises Identification Number (PIN) as the sole means of identifying properties for USDA animal health purposes. The proposed rule also mandates the use of the NAIS numbering system (i.e. the “840 numbering system”) for ear tags using official animal identification numbers. Tags using other numbering systems would be required to be linked to a NAIS PIN.

The draft rule is seriously flawed for multiple reasons:

  1.  Does not substantiate the alleged benefits to animal health: The USDA makes general claims about the benefits of identifying locations where animals are kept, but the agency does not address the ability of existing programs to meet this purpose, nor how the proposed rule would improve the capability to identify locations.
  2. Ignores the costs and burdens: The proposed rule would substantially increase costs for livestock owners and taxpayers. Costs include the development and maintenance of a massive database; purchase of 840-numbered tags by animal owners; changes by state agencies to make existing programs consistent with the rule; and increased federal government intrusion into the lives and daily activities of farmers and other animal owners.
  3. Violates individuals’ religious beliefs: Amish, Mennonite and some other individuals have religious objections to the universal numbering system under NAIS.
  4. Creates disincentives for people to seek veterinary care for their animals and participate in existing disease control programs: The proposed rule lists four animal disease programs —tuberculosis , brucellosis, scrapie and Johne’s — and will also impact others. These programs include provisions for veterinary care through vaccinations and testing. Animal owners who object to NAIS may avoid participating in these programs, thereby increasing health risks to the public and farm operations.
  5. Adds to the confusion: This rule is the latest in a series of ambiguous and often contradictory documents that the USDA has issued on NAIS. This has created enormous confusion over the intent of the USDA and problems for both animal owners and state agencies.

The proposed rule is a significant step towards implementing the entire NAIS program. Thus, the agency should address the fundamental question of whether it should be implementing NAIS at all. In addition to the problems with the draft rule listed above, there are many additional objections to the entire NAIS program:

  1. USDA’s assertions that NAIS will provide benefits for animal health are not supported, and actually contradict basic scientific principles.
  2. High costs for animal owners and taxpayers: These costs include: (1) the development, maintenance, and update of massive databases; (2) the costs of tags, most of which will contain microchips; (3) the labor burdens for tagging every animal; (4) the paperwork burdens of reporting routine movements; and (5) the costs of enforcement on millions of individuals. 
  3. Impracticality: The databases to register the properties, identify each animal, and record billions of “events” will dwarf any system currently in existence.
  4. Waste of money: The USDA has already spent over $130 million on NAIS implementation, but has yet to develop a workable plan for the program.
  5. Diverts resources from more critical needs such as disease testing, disease prevention through vaccination and improved animal husbandry practices, and disease detection in currently uninspected livestock imports.
  6. Damage to food safety efforts: NAIS will not prevent foodborne illnesses, such as E. coli or salmonella contamination, because the tracking ends at the time of slaughter. Food safety is better served by focusing on programs such as increased testing for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or Mad Cow), improved oversight of slaughterhouses and food processing facilities, and increased inspections of imported foods. Programs such as NAIS that burden small, sustainable farmers will hurt efforts to develop safer, decentralized local food systems
  7. Discourages involvement in farming or animal husbandry: Because of costs and government intrusion, some people will choose not to stay in farming or go into farming. This will result in less competition, greater reliance in foreign imports and poor quality at higher prices.

I urge the USDA to withdraw the proposed rule to implement portions of the National Animal Identification System, Docket No. APHIS-2007-0096.


Name: ___________________________________
Address: _________________________________
City, State Zip: _____________________________

Additional Comments: