Setback for Big Brother: Federal Court Suspends National Animal Identification System
Court Decision Suspends USDA’s Efforts to Establish a New Privacy Act System of Records for NAIS
R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America, June 2008
Billings, Mont. R-CALF USA was pleased to learn that on June 4, 2008, the U.S. District Court District of Columbia forced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to suspend indefinitely its plan to establish a new Privacy Act system of records titled “National Animal Identification System (NAIS).” In April, USDA proposed to establish the NAIS system of records, which was to become effective June 9, 2008, and had published a notice soliciting public comments. R-CALF USA and other organizations submitted comments with the agency in opposition to USDA’s plan. The court-ordered suspension was a result of the Mary-Louise Zanoni v. United States Department of Agriculture case. The suspension was published in Tuesday’s Federal Register.
In its comments to USDA, R-CALF USA states: “R-CALF maintains that USDA has misrepresented the purpose, scope and nature of its proposed new system of records, and that USDA’s actual purposes of the proposed new system was simply to develop a national registry of real, personal and private property.”
“In fact, it is R-CALF’s position that the actual scope of this NAIS registry was anything but voluntary, as media reports indicate there likely are thousands of U.S. citizens whose property was added to the NAIS registry against their will or without their knowledge,” said R-CALF USA President Max Thornsberry, a Missouri veterinarian who also chairs the group’s animal health committee.
“It’s also important to note that USDA has provided no evidence to demonstrate that the NAIS registry is even feasible, as no cost/benefit analysis has been conducted to determine if the cost of NAIS to food-animal owners can be recovered in the marketplace, nor has USDA provided evidence to show that things like normal loss of ear tags, data entry errors and/or computer malfunctions would not effectively thwart any traceback efforts,” Thornsberry pointed out. “As a result of this lack of information, USDA cannot justify the need for its NAIS system or its related proposal for a new system of records.
“R-CALF USA will continue to request that Congress put a moratorium on any funding for NAIS, and we are grateful that the judicial system has blocked the agency’s misguided plan,” he concluded. “We believe the pending lawsuit will demonstrate that USDA has improperly acquired information about many U.S. citizens and has wrongfully included their information into its so-called ‘voluntary’ data base without their permission.”