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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 information.

"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," said Abbott.

"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