I hope that this isn't too obscure, but it is surely an issue close to my heart. It is becoming more and more difficult to either turn a profit as a full time farmer or to simply raise crops or livestock for your own family. It is very tough in western North Carolina, where land is typically too rugged for large scale farm operations like those of the west and mid-west, to compete economically on the enormous and overwhelming commodities market. And, increasingly, land is too expensive, and the cost of living too high, to get started in small scale farming or to have the time for "hobby-farming."
The limp with which family centered agriculture walks has lately become more noticeable and more crippling. Falling, too, along with the family farm are the values that have been derived and preserved there: the love and respect for and among farmers- fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters; the responsibility and humility that an interaction with the demands; the commitment to the wider world and environment that a commitment to it instills.
Now, while facing greater and more persistent threats than ever before, the fate of small farming operations may soon be cast further into doubt. Recently the USDA has made plans to implement a National Animal Identification System (NAIS). If implemented, NAIS would require every animal in the country to be registered as part of the national herd, and tagged with some form of identification, likely a "biochip." If a farmer takes an animal off the property on which it's registered, for whatever reason- to march a pig in a parade, to take a bull out for stud services, to ride a horse on a trail, to show sheep in a fair- the farmer must report it to the federal government.
By the USDA's own admission farmers can expect to pay some of the costs for this program, and refusal to comply will result in huge fines. NAIS is an invasive and unjustifiable program that has been set forth by the USDA at the stern urging of the mega-argo-business lobby with the clear intent to make it more difficult for small farms to survive. For example, if NAIS was truly designed to keep America's food supply safe, the super-large-scale farming operations would not get the exemption that they did.
Feed-lot dairy operations pack thousands of cows into closed barns where they are mechanically fed, milked, and shot up full of hormones until they dry up or die off. In such conditions, diseases can easily spread from one animal to another, quickly and unnoticed, because it's hard to spot a sick cow when people don't handle them and the are miserable even when they aren't infected. The massive holding tanks where milk is stored mixes all of the milk being produced. Yet, incredibly, in such a system the USDA has no problem allowing every single cow to get the same identification tag. This entirely defeats the stated purpose of NAIS.
It is clear to me and many others who are concerned about the future of farming, or even just the integration of a few animals into the dynamics of a family, that NAIS is a clear threat. The program has been established quietly by and executive agency without any debate in Congress. Please, PLEASE get in touch with you members of Congress and tell them how damaging this program would be. Even better, if you are working or volunteering for a candidate, discuss this issue with him or her. Most good Democrats (and for that sake Republicans, really,) would find this program terribly offensive if they ever heard about it.
Thanks for letting me rant.