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September 17, 2006

Excerpts of this update were taken from material posted on the “ChevonTalk” web group by Suzanne W. Gasparotto. It is provided as an informational document only. No inferences should be drawn with respect to support for the legislation, or lack thereof, described in this update.

On September 7, 2006, Senator James Talent (R-Mo) introduced S-3862, a bill to amend the Animal Health Protection Act (7 USC §8308), which the U.S. Department of Agriculture has used as the authority to develop its proposed National Animal Identification System (NAIS). A companion bill (HR-6042) was introduced in the House by Representative Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo).

Section I of the bill says that the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture “…shall not implement or carry out, and no Federal funds shall be used to implement or carry out, a National Animal Identification System, or similar requirement, that mandates the participation of livestock owners.”

Section II of the bill defines the term “Animal Identification System” to mean: “voluntary system for identifying or tracing animals that is established by the Secretary.” This section also provides protection from disclosure, under the Freedom of Information Act, “…of information that may be collected by the USDA through a voluntary program.” By providing information to USDA in a voluntary program, the provider does not relinquish any other right, privilege, or protection afforded under federal law, including trade secret protection.

The Secretary may disclose information obtained through the animal identification system if:
1. The Secretary determines that livestock may be threatened by a disease or pest;
2. The release of the information is related to actions the Secretary is authorized to take under this subtitle; and
3. The Secretary determines that the disclosure of the information to a government entity or person is necessary to assist the Secretary in carrying out the purposes of this subtitle and the animal identification system.

The Secretary shall disclose information to:
1. The person who owns or controls the animals, upon written request;
2. The Attorney General for law enforcement purposes;
3. The Secretary of Homeland Security for security purposes;
4. The Secretary of Health and Human Services, to protect public health;
5. An entity pursuant to a court order;
6. A foreign government, if necessary to trace a disease or pest threat.

Any information obtained from the Secretary by state or local government, is not subject to local or state laws that require public disclosure.

Analysis (by Henry Lamb in freedom.org)
This bill is not a National Animal Identification System bill, and should not be considered as such. Three other bills have been introduced, that are NAIS bills: HR-3170, HR-1254, and HR-1256. These are bills that describe a proposed National Animal Identification System. Additionally, the USDA has proposed a NAIS that can be implemented by rule, using the authority and funding granted in the 2002 appropriation bill.

Sen. Talent’s bill goes to the seat of this authority and amends the original authority to prohibit any animal identification program developed by USDA from being mandatory. The bill further prohibits the use of federal funds to any state program that is mandatory.

The purpose of this bill is not to describe, or define a NAIS. The other bills serve this purpose, and these bills call for a mandatory system. The Talent bill will now force the Agriculture Committee to reconcile the “no mandatory program” concept with the “mandatory” concept. This head-on battle would not have occurred without the Talent bill. The Talent bill does nothing more, or less, than is stated here.

Commentary (again by Henry Lamb in freedom.org)
Opponents of the NAIS may prefer that there be no national animal identification program at all. But this preference ignores reality. More than four years, and at least $183 million have already been invested in developing a program. There are at least three bills defining a NAIS, in addition to the program developed by the USDA. If there is no legislation, the USDA program will be instituted by rule. The basis for this eventuality was established in the agriculture appropriations bill.

Therefore, opponents of the NAIS would be well served to support the Talent bill, since it is the only hope of stopping a mandatory program. Criticism of Talent’s bill is actually criticism of the NAIS program as proposed by USDA, and is completely misplaced when directed toward the Talent bill.

The Talent bill seeks only to prohibit the USDA from making mandatory any animal identification program that it may develop, and to prohibit the use of federal funds for any state program that is mandatory. It also seeks to protect from disclosure any information that may be collected by a voluntary USDA program. Criticism about any other aspect of the NAIS should be directed elsewhere - not toward the Talent bill.

The verbatim text of this bill can be found at: http://libertyark.net/bills/s3862.htm.

Ray Hoyt
NAIS Coordinator
NPGA HER Committee Member



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