FROM: INDEPENDENT CATTLEMEN OF NEBRASKA CONTACT: Chris Abbott, President
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - September 6, 2005
ICON Opposes Privatization of NAIS Program
Hyannis, NE ~ Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska (ICON) today expressed
its opposition to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns' announcement
that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will move to permit a
privately held animal-tracking repository for cattle herd data under
the agency's National Animal Identification System (NAIS).
"This confirms what we've suspected for some time," commented
Chris Abbott, ICON President. "The National Cattlemen's Beef Association
(NCBA) has been positioning itself to become the appointed repository
for herd data. While Secretary Johanns stopped short of naming the private
entity being considered, his statement is coincidentally timed with
a public push by NCBA to hand the data collection over to private industry."
ICON supports the rights of individual states to manage the animal identification
"This has become a states' rights issue," noted Abbott. "At
the state level, producers will have much more input into, and governance
of, the animal identification system. Collection of this data is an
extremely sensitive responsibility. Top priorities for cattlemen with
regard to animal identification are cost and confidentiality, and those
issues have yet to be addressed satisfactorily."
"It is not appropriate for the federal government to hand this
responsibility over to a private entity that has political motivations
and the desire to profit or otherwise benefit from access to this proprietary
information. This misplaced responsibility would likely lead to abuses
of information that could potentially damage individual producers and
harm markets. If mandatory animal identification becomes a reality,
it must be removed as far as possible from the political process,"
"The announcement by USDA is causing an uproar amongst cattlemen,"
said Al Davis, ICON board member. "There are core issues of trust
that have not been addressed to the satisfaction of cattle producers.
We still do not know whether data is protected from the Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA). Exact costs for implementation and maintenance of the program
have not been identified. Access to this information should fall to
state animal health officials and tribal governments who are already
charged with overseeing animal health issues within their respective
states or governments."
Davis continued adding, "The implementation of mandatory country
of origin labeling (COOL) should be incorporated into the NAIS program.
USDA and NCBA continue to oppose mandatory COOL saying the costs exceed
the benefits. Yet, both support NAIS at any cost. We have yet to see
a cost/benefit analysis conducted by USDA with regard to NAIS."
Jim Hanna, ICON board member noted, "The purpose of the NAIS program
is to protect U.S. livestock from disease outbreaks and to facilitate
the tracking of animals in the event of an outbreak. Only federal or
state agencies can be held accountable for the proper implementation
of the program and to ensure that its objectives remain within the scope
of the law. This can only be accomplished if the program remains in
the public domain and is funded through public monies."
"ICON will be working with state officials and our congressional
delegations to ensure that a proper consensus is obtained from cattle
producers before there's a rush to implement this program," said
Abbott. "Proprietary business information is at stake and can be
likened to handing over the keys to your business to a complete stranger.
Before there's a rush to implement we need to ensure the interests of
all cattlemen are adequately represented in the process."
Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska represents independent cattle producers,
standing together, without the influence of other industry sectors while
securing a viable livelihood for present and future generations. Membership
dues to ICON are $50. Dual memberships to ICON and R-CALF USA can be
purchased for $85. To join contact ICON at 308.282.2826 or email at