Feds won’t make livestock-identification plan mandatory

Surprising exactly no one, a federal plan to track all U.S. livestock with ID tags remains controversial with farmers. Surprising some, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has given up on making it mandatory. Intended to trace disease and to combat — wait for it — agroterrorism, the National Animal Identification System is “admittedly a very emotional issue,” says USDA undersecretary Bruce Knight, who has traveled the country to meet with skeptics. Since its rollout last year, NAIS has registered nearly a quarter of the nation’s roughly 1.4 million farming “premises”; the next step for farms is to buy electronic tags for their animals at $2 to $3 a pop. Concerns range from religious (think tech-wary Amish) to economic to general mistrust of The Man: “The only reason for [NAIS] is to serve the economic interests of large meatpackers and people who are going to sell the technology,” said Mary-Louise Zanoni, a small-farm advocate in New York. Said the agroterrorists: Mwah-ha-ha-ha.