Picture yourself eating healthy, fresh, flavorful foods, raised by local farmers who care for their land and their animals in a way that improves the environment, supports local economies, and promotes animal welfare. This vision stands in stark contrast to the current mainstream food supply, controlled by large industrial agriculture companies. In pursuit of the greatest profits, they have sacrificed people's health, environmental quality, and any trace of compassion for animals.
Growing numbers of farmers and consumers share a vision for change, one that promotes healthy people, animals, and the environment. But the large industrial agriculture companies are seeking government help to preserve their market control and profits in the 2007 Farm Bill. Before your eyes glaze over at the words "Farm Bill," ask yourself whether you want to be able to get local, grass-fed meats and eggs. Hormone-free milk? Organic foods free from genetically engineered contamination? A choice whether or not to buy genetically engineered foods? If any of these things matter to you, then the Farm Bill affects your life – it’s about your food!
Two sneaky provisions in the Farm Bill could force sustainable farmers out of business and cut off local control of food safety.
The Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN), has stuck two provisions into the draft Farm Bill that would seriously damage sustainable agriculture and local control of food.
The future of American farmers threatened: Section 121, Country of Origin Labeling, and the National Animal Identification System.
When you buy almost anything, from clothing to toys, there’s a label on it that tells you where it was made. But not food. That "USDA" label on a package of meat does not mean that it comes from an animal raised or processed in this country. In fact, odds are good that it came from Mexico, South America, or as far away as Australia! And odds are overwhelming that it was not inspected when it came in – less than 1% of all agricultural imports are inspected. Consider the recent pet food problems, caused by contaminated wheat gluten imported from China. With the "Bread Basket of the World" in our own Midwest, why are we importing wheat gluten for thousands of pounds of pet food? The answer comes down to playing the international market to make the greatest profits for the industrial ag companies, of course.
Both farmers and consumers have pushed for Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for agricultural products in recent years, so that consumers could tell if the products were grown and processed under the U.S. environmental and safety laws, or if they were grown and processed in a foreign country with lower standards. COOL would also allow American consumers to decide if they want to support American farmers and ranchers under the "Buy American" concept.
In 2002, Congress included COOL in the Farm Bill and barred USDA from using mandatory animal identification to implement COOL. Because of opposition from the big industrial agriculture companies, implementation was delayed until 2008. Now that implementation is drawing near, those companies have convinced Congressman Collin Peterson to turn the victory of COOL into a defeat for farmers and consumers by combining it with the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Peterson has included a provision in the Farm Bill, Section 121, that would allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to use mandatory animal identification to implement COOL.
NAIS is not necessary to implement COOL.
NAIS would require anyone who owns even one chicken, horse, goat, sheep, cow, pig, elk, deer, or other livestock animal or poultry to register their property with the federal and state governments, individually identify each animal with a unique 15-digit number (and, for many animals, use electronic identification), and report movements to a database within 24 hour. NAIS would end when the animal is slaughtered. USDA has not done a cost estimate for NAIS, but experience in other countries shows that this type of program can cost from $37 to $69 per animal on average. That is more then the profit margin on many livestock animals – and it doesn’t address the probability that small producers will end up paying more because of economies of scale. Farmers raising pastured animals will be placed at a significant disadvantage to confinement operations because of the logistics of the program.
In contrast, COOL could be accomplished by simply branding each animal with a country brand at border crossings (or marking packages as they go through Customs), and then segregating the animals at slaughter and afterwards. There is almost no overlap between the two programs, and NAIS would require far more money, time, and intrusion into people’s lives than implementation of COOL.
Think of it this way: Claiming that NAIS is necessary for COOL is like claiming that we have to force anyone who owns a needle and thread to register with the government and report any sewing they do, so that we can have labels on the shirts imported from China and sold at Wal-Mart!
NAIS will drive many American farmers and ranchers out of business and undermine fundamental American rights and values. The right to know where our food comes from will be an empty right if it is purchased at the price of NAIS. If NAIS is implemented, consumers would be fooled into believing that they were supporting American farmers and ranchers through the "Made in the USA" label. Yet more and more of the food labeled that way would be raised by international mega-corporations that are willing and able to comply with NAIS. With independent producers forced out of business by NAIS, the companies would have a free hand to push for lower and lower standards, increasing their bottom line at the expense of food safety, environmental health, and animal welfare.
For more information about the National Animal Identification System, go to Liberty Ark or the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Local control destroyed: Section 123 and Federal Preemption:
The second provision inserted by Congressman Peterson would bar states or localities from prohibiting any food or agricultural product that the USDA has deregulated. The language reads:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no State or locality shall make any law prohibiting the use in commerce of an article that the Secretary of Agriculture has—
(1) inspected and passed; or
(2) determined to be of non-regulated status.
The purpose behind this provision is to deny local and state rights to regulate genetically modified organisms (GMO) crops or food (also referred to as genetically engineered, or GE, crops). The provision would preempt laws in California, Arkansas and Missouri that regulate the introduction of GMO rice varieties and legislation in Washington prohibiting the planting of GMO canola in certain areas of the state. States have taken these measures to protect their farmers against contamination from GMO cross pollination, as well as responding to consumer concerns about labeling of GMO foods. Federal pre-emption also threatens local laws that address hormones in our milk or other additives in our foods.
Do you see a common theme here? The big companies, while touting the wonders of the free market, don’t want people to know what they’re eating! Whether it’s un-inspected food from China or GMO technology, the companies want people to stay ignorant. The industrial agriculture companies tried to get this provision passed last year as the "Food Uniformity" bill, and failed. So now they’re trying to sneak it into the Farm Bill.
Sadly, it is a Democratic Congressman who inserted these sections. So we need Democrats to speak up! This is about our food supply, not just farms and rural America. Please contact Collin Peterson, Senator Harkin (Chair of the Senate Ag Committee), any member of the Committees from your state, and your own Congressman and Senators. Yes, that’s a lot of people – but each call takes less than a minute, or you can do one letter that you copy to all of them. Just a few minutes dedicated to protecting health food, the environment and our economy!
Contact the people listed below!
The Message: I am opposed to the National Animal Identification System and to federal pre-emption of local control over our food supply. Please strip Sections 121 and 123 from the draft House version of the Farm Bill. The law barring the USDA from using mandatory animal identification to implement COOL should not be changed, and states and local governments should be able to adopt higher standards than the USDA.
- The Honorable Collin C. Peterson
Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture
1305 Longworth House Office Building
Washington D.C. 20515
- Senator Harkin
Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry
Room SR-328A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC. 20510-6000
- Any member of the House or Senate Committee on Agriculture who comes from your state -- it's important that they hear from the people within their state. The members of both committees are listed below, in order of their states (starting with Alabama and ending with Wisconsin).
- Your Congressman and Senator: http://www.house.gov/... and http://www.senate.gov. Or call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
House Committee on Agriculture:
Members are listed in order of their states (alphabetically). Senate Committee members are listed afterwards.
- Terry Everett (AL), (p) 202-225-2901, (f) 202-225-8913
- Michael Rogers (AL), (p) 202-225-3261, (f) 202-226-8485
- Jo Bonner (AL), (p) 202-225-4931, (f) 202-225-0562
- Joe Baca (CA), (p) 202-225-6161, (f) 202-225-8671
- Dennis Cardoza (CA), (p) 202-225-6131, (f) 202-225-0819
- Jim Costa (CA), (p) 202-225-3341, (f) 202-225-9308
- Kevin McCarthy (CA), (202) 225-2915, (f) 202-225-2908
- John T. Salazar (CO), (p) 202-225-4761, (f) 202-226-9669
- Marilyn Musgrove (CO), (p) 202-225-4676, (f) 202-225-5870
- Timothy Mahoney (FL), (p) 202-225-5792, (f) 202-225-3132
- David Scott (GA), (p) 202-225-2939, (f) 202-225-4628
- Jim Marshall (GA), (p) 202-225-6531, (f) 202-225-3013
- John Barrow (GA), (p) 866-890-6236, (f) 202-225-3377
- Leonard L. Boswell, (IA), (p) 202-225-3806, (f) 202-225-5608
- Steve King (IA), (p) 202-225-4426, (f) 202-225-3193
- Timothy Johnson (IL), 202-225-2371, (f) 202-226-0791
- Brad Ellsworth (IN), (p) 866-567-0227, (f) 202-225-3284
- Joe Donnelly (IN), (p) 202-225-3915, (f) 202-225-6798
- Nancy Boyda (KS), (p) 202-225-6601, (f) 202-225-7986
- Jerry Moran (KS), (p) 202-225-2715, (f) 202-225-5124
- Charles W. Boustany, Hr. (LA), (p) 202-225-2031, (f) 202-225-5724
- Tim Walberg (MI), (p) 202-225-6276, (f) 202-225-6281
- Collin Peterson (MN), (p) 202-225-2165, (f) 202-225-1593
- Timothy J. Walz (MN), (p) 202-225-2472, (f) 202-225-3433
- Sam Graves (MO), (p) 202-225-7041, (f) 202-225-8221
- Earl Pomeroy, (ND), (p) 202-225-2611, (f) 202-226-0893
- Mike McIntyre (NC), (p) 202-225-2731, (f) 202-225-5773
- Bob Etheridge (NC), (p) 202-225-4531, (f) 202-225-5662
- Robin Hayes, (NC), (p) 202-225-3715, (f)202-225-4036
- Virginia Foxx (NC), (p) 202-225-2071, (f) 202-225-2995
- Jeff Fortnberry (NE), (p) 202-225-4806, (f) 202-225-5686
- Adrian Smith (NE), (p) 202-225-6435, (f) 202-225-0207
- Kirsten Gillibrand, (NY), (p) 202-225-5614, (f)202-225-1168
- John R. "Randy" Kuhl, Jr. (NY), 202-225-3161, (f) 202-226-6599
- Zachary T. Space (OH), (p) 202-225-6265, (f) 330-364-4330
- Jean Schmidt (OH), (p) 202-225-3164, (f) 202-225-1992
- Frank D. Lucas (OK), (p) 202-225-5565, (f) 202-225-8698
- Tim Holden (PA), (p) 202-225-5546, (f) 202-226-0996
- Stephanie Herseth Sandline, (SD), (p) 202-225-2801, (f) 202-225-5823
- Lincoln Davis, (TN), (p) 202-225-6831, 9f) 202-226-5172
- Henry Cuellar (TX), (p) 202-225-1640, (f) 202-225-1641
- Mike Conaway (TX), (p) 202-225-3605, (f) 202-225-1783
- Randy Neugebauer (TX), (p) 800-763-1611, (f) 202-225-9615
- Nicholas Lampson (TX), (p) 202-225-5951, (f) 202-225-5241
- Bob Goodlatte (VA), (p) 202-225-5431, (f) 202-225-9681
- Steve Kagen (WI), (p) 202-225-5665, (f) 202-225-5729
Senate Committee on Agriculture:
- Blanche Lincoln (AR), (p) 202-224-4843, (f) 202-228-1371
- Ken Salazar (CO), (p) 202-224-5852, (f) 202-228-5036
- Saxby Chambliss (GA), (p) 202-224-3521, (f) 202-224-0103
- Mike Crapo (ID), (p) 202-224-6142, (f) 202-228-1375
- Tom Harkin (IA), (p) 202-224-3254, (f) 202-224-9369
- Charles Grassley (IA), (p) 202-224-3744, (f) 515-288-5097
- Richard Lugar (IN), (p) 202-224-4814, (f) 202-228-0360
- Pat Roberts (KS), (p) 202-224-4774, (f) 202-224-3514
- Mitch McConnell (KY), (p) 202-224-2541, (f) 202-224-2499
- Debbie Stabenow (MI), (p) 202-224-4822, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Norm Coleman (MN), (p) 202-224-5641, (f) 202-224-1152
- Amy Klobuchar (MN), (p) 202-224-3244
- Thad Cochran (MS), (p) 202-224-5054
- Max Baucus (MT), (p) 202-224-2651, (f) 202-224-0515
- E. Banjamin Nelson (NE), (p) 202-224-6551, (f) 202-228-0012
- Kent Conrad (ND), (p) 202-224-2043, (f) 202-224-7776, E-mail: https://conrad.senate.gov/...
- Sherrod Brown (OH), (p): 202-224-2315, (f) 202-228-6321
- Robert Casey, Jr. (PA), (p): 202-224-6324, (f) 202-228-0604
- Lindsey Graham (SC), (p) 202-224-5972
- John Thune (SD), (p) 202-224-2321, (f) 202-228-5429
- Patrick Leahy (VT), (p) 202-224-4242