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Animal tags threaten small farms

May 21, 2006|by Julie Stinar

To the editor:

What a surprise I had recently while looking through my paper. In the Lifestyle section, I read a wonderful story on young farm families, just starting out in their lives together. On the Gallery page, I saw the beautiful pictures of the Baker family on their farm in Boonsboro. In the interview with Del. Chris Shank, I read about how funding for farmland preservation in Maryland has been increased this year.

All of these great stories were muted by an article about NAIS (National Animal Identification System) on your front page. The former heralded a bright future for family farms, but the latter has the ability to drive them to ruin.

I encourage you to visit NoNAIS.org or stopanimalid.org to find out what real family farmers think of this plan - people who have taken the time to read through the entire USDA plan on their own. They are not relying on what their government agents are telling them.

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The condescending tone of Mr. Hohenhaus, the Maryland state veterinarian, toward family farmers should make us all wonder whose interest he is looking out for. His saying that farmers' concerns about the time and cost requirements associated with this plan are nothing but "a convenient scapegoat" and that "these folks are not earning their bread and butter" by farming, is appalling! Maybe the time and costs won't add up to much for Purdue, which has a whole bunch of people doing nothing but paperwork all day long, but to the families who are working the land, raising food for their communities and running farm businesses, these new regulations will make many people decide to give up the farm to the highest bidder.

Did he ever stop to think that maybe some of these "folks" had to get outside jobs because the farm couldn't pay all of the bills? To flippantly insinuate that farmers concerns are of no importance is astoundingly irresponsible.

Can he (and everyone else) not see how devastating this plan could be for the whole of small-scale agriculture in the state, not to mention the national impact? The only people who would want to have anything to do with this plan are the big industry leaders, who can identify 20,000 animals with one ID tag. The rest of us would have to ID each individual animal. The smaller growers of livestock, the direct-to-consumer farmers, the independent feed stores, the small USDA slaughterhouses and the custom slaughterhouse, the auction sites, the livestock vets, fence builders, the list goes on and on - all would suffer under this plan. For each person who decides not to jump through the NAIS hoops, there will be one less farmer buying feed, one less person needing new fencing, one less customer at the tractor dealer. But on the bright side, there will be one more person buying prepackaged meat at Food Lion (well, maybe more, when you consider all the homes that will be built on the land that used to be a farm.)

What about the only exposure that most urban and suburban children get to farm animals, the hatching of chicks in their elementary school classroom? How many principals and teachers are going to think it is worth it to get a premise ID, report how many chicks they have and pierce them through the neck with the hangtag ID before they leave the building, much to the horror of the children who had raised them?

Oh, I guess that Mr. Hohenhaus forgot to mention to the reporter that the poultry tag that works like a clothes tag would be through the chicken's neck.

They will say it isn't worth it! There will be virtually no agriculture in the classroom because, come on now, is Purdue really going to take around a bunch of chickens for show and tell? And truthfully, a Cornish-cross meat bird and a white leghorn laying hen are just about the ugliest chickens around.

Oh, and this plan isn't just for farms, either. If you have a couple of chickens for eggs, one goat for brush control, a family cow or that pot-bellied pig that you thought was so cute - you must register! If you own a dairy farm, don't forget to register all of your little banty chickens that you have running about for bug control. And if your little pet goat gets out of its fence and into your neighbor's petunias, don't forget that you must call in and report your animal's movements to the government. Just make sure that you don't mention the fact that your neighbor is as "mad as a wet hen" or they might try to tag her, too.

Julie Stinar
Sharpsburg

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