A Threat to Small Farms

Hey y'all,

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.



Really glad you wrote this

For all the rhetoric about estate taxes and family farms in Congress these days, the truth is a whole nother story. Congress doesn't give a shit about real family farms any more than they care about real family values. There's no money in either as far as they're concerned, which is why major agricultural programs mostly benefit industrial operators. The Murphy Family Farms of the world lobby hard and grease the skids of their bills with plenty of corporate contributions.

My wife was raised on a family farm and it breaks her heart to see what's happening. Small farms are going the way of small schools and small everything else that doesn't reflect the agenda of big bidness.



NoNAIS.org is a great resource online that provides a ton of information about the program. They offer some suggestions as to how fight this, but in my opinion the best way is to work hard to find the ears of candidates and to help them get to office. The program will rely on states for enforcement and implementation, so while ideally the U.S. Congress might take up the cause, an informed General Assembly could go a long way too.
The crime of it all, really, is that no has even heard of it. Spread the word.

Excellent post, Foppert

I did some work on a dairy farm in Rutherford county when I was coming up. The farm belonged to a family we went to church with. They moved to NC from Maryland leaving a comfortable life and comfortable attorney's pay to buy land and build a dream. My family and many others helped them build the milking parlor. I had never been to a barn raising until then. They had horses and layin' hens in addition to the cows. There was a broad creek with huge trees surrounding quiet parts of it where we swam on hot afternoons when the work was done, and every second I spent out there working or playing was like a dream. It's still like a dream when I remember it now.

Real dairy farms were all over the place in NC thirty years ago. They were set on sprawling, rolling land stitched with fence rows and spotted by silos, barns and milking parlors. My first trip out to California in my mid twenties, I got a look at things to come. We were in the country going from LA to Kings Canyon. To the side of the road was a big sign "XYZ Dairy Farms". It was a tiny little speck of fenced area stuffed with cows, no grass, surrounded by planted fields and orchards. I looked but there was no big grazing area that I wasn't seeing. I was from NC. I knew what a dairy farm was supposed to look like. I could NOT believe they called that horrible muddy plot (~ three ac. maybe) a farm. I was completely disgusted.

Those factory farms are also responsible for some nasty stuff that no one really ever brings up when they're talking about factory farms. It was in those stuffed feed lots that E. coli OH157:H7 - the super nasty strain of E. coli that kills people -- was bred, as well as other nasty strains of bacteria. Along with the hormones Foppert talked about being pumped into dairy and beef cattle, massive doses of antibiotics are poured in, too. Why? Not really to stave off infection. Antibiotic regimines in cattle increase weight gain and milk production. And with the selective pressure of constant antibiotics in thousands of cattle in close contact, all crapping on the same lot, what do you get ...? That's right boys and girls, you get antibiotic resistent bacteria!! It's an amazing natural phenomenon. It's called -- ssshhhhh -- evolution. :) wait, no :(

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Great post.

I'm out of town and can't post now (bad connection) but please keep this up.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

A question

I didn't follow the links, but I've read that the Bush administration refuses to allow tests for mad cow disease as requested by our own beef exporters. This has apparently almost eliminated our exports to Japan, for example.

I wonder if this program is an attempt to replace testing while perfecting the technology to track us sheeplike Americans in the future? We seem willing to accept any violation of our rights in the name of security.

- ge

Besta é tu se você não viver nesse mundo

Besta é tu se você não viver nesse mundo