The initial seven listening sessions scheduled on the National Animal Identification System wrap up on Monday, but USDA has announced there will be six more sessions to allow more public comment. The schedule for these new listening sessions is June 9, Jefferson City, Mo.; June 11, Rapid City, S.D.; June 16, Albuquerque, N.M.; June 18, Riverside, Calif.; June 25, Raleigh, N.C., and, June 27, Jasper, Fla. Locations of the sessions is yet to be announced.
While R-CALF is pleased that more listening sessions are being held, R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard questions the agency's motives for adding the new sessions.
"These listening sessions aren't going well for USDA, as the agency is running into much more opposition to NAIS than it ever bargained for," said Bullard. "But rather than announce that NAIS will be withdrawn and the remaining sessions used to develop a strategy to prevent, control and eradicate diseases, USDA persists in addressing only NAIS. We think USDA's plan continues to be to glean from everyone's comments anything good that is said about NAIS so the agency can compile a report to forge ahead and implement NAIS after making only minor tweaks to the program."
Of particular concern to Bullard is the splitting of the audience into groups and focusing on how to improve NAIS. Bullard says when the audience agrees to focus on USDA's specific questions, the message that NAIS is flawed and unacceptable becomes secondary in importance.
"In other words, if USDA is allowed to frame the debate to that of focusing only on how to fix NAIS, then our opportunity to stop NAIS in its tracks is weakened," Bullard explained. "To counter USDA’s plan, the audience must stand firm and demand that USDA overturn NAIS in its entirety and demand that USDA make a public announcement that it will no longer pursue NAIS."
Bullard is encouraging any livestock producers within driving distance of any of the listening sessions to attend and make their opposition heard.