USDA - NAIS "listening session" - June 1, 2009 Loveland, CO
Good Neighbor Law filed request with APHIS for comments from all "listening sessions."
When received, comments will be posted on www.GoodNeighborLaw.com
If you testified June 1st in Loveland, your comments are welcome here!
A REPORT BY SHARON CROGHAN
I attended the USDA listening stop at The Ranch yesterday.
There were ~175 people in attendance.
Everyone who signed up to speak was allowed to do so. We were asked to keep our comments to 3 minutes, but the timer wasn't being very strict. I was ¾ of the way through my comments, when I looked at the timer and it wasn't even turned on - the gentleman running the timer, turned the green light on for me and signaled I could keep going.
Here is how the numbers went, by my count. We were called up in groups of 5 and I counted at the end of each group to be sure I had hash marks under each category equally 5. One group had 4 and the last group was 3, one being a very young fellow of maybe 9 or 10. This kid was dynamic, spoke from his heart and will be a great leader someday, probably is one now. others reported 62 speakers, I think there were 57, but I missed one here or there.
5 - supporters of mandatory NAIS
10 - Tweeners (those who said they favored NAIS in a voluntary form only or something similar)
40 solid no to NAIS speakers.
The supporters of NAIS were: a pork producer, representatives from the dairy industry, one beef producer and a Colorado APHIS employee - I think the director of this area or region. I don't think most people keeping track included him in the list of supporters, but since he spoke I included him.
The pork producer said he fully participated in nais. According to him, he could not make a profit selling pork to US consumers, so he had to ship overseas and even with better prices on the world market, he was still barely making a living. He didn't explain why he thought mandatory nais for all would help him.
One of the dairymen speaking in favor of mandatory nais, participates fully in nais now, as did the cattle rancher.
DHI, Dairy Herd Improvement, requires premise id in order for DHI to purchase milk. There was at least one DHI rep there who spoke, there may have been 2.
The supporters of nais were all about animal health, consumer confidence, disease prevention and added value to their products. Most acknowledged nais would not prevent disease, but stop the spread of a potentially devastating disease more quickly than the current system. No real explanation or evidence was presented by anyone on how nais would actually increase their bottom line only that they believed it would.
The tweeners, were primarily Farm Bureau representatives, they hailed from Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska - I didn't take many notes, as it was all being recorded and transcribed by a court reporter. Seems to me, the FB has been for mandatory nais, changing their message only recently. Their messages were all similar: nais is coming in some form or another, better to support the voluntary program, rather than have congress mandate it in a less desirable form.
The basic message brought by the no nais majority, was no nais. Most supported utilizing local agencies, already in place, which have historically proven their ability to track and eradicate disease, rather than a national system. Many also pointed out the fact that our borders are a primary introduction points for disease and should be closed until the health of Mexican and Canadian cattle could be guaranteed.
Chuck Sylvester, Good Neighbor Law founder www.goodneighborlaw.com received a standing ovation for his speech chastising USDA for "pimping" our 4H kids with premise id! Thanks Chuck! We love you. check out the website.
Of the speakers opposing nais, I was one of only 3 consumers. I don't exactly fit in the "consumer" category as we have horses and raise an occasional hog, have had chickens and ducks., my points were in support of producers, rather than my own, personal opposition to nais. The majority of people there were producers: mostly cow/calf or finishers, one man from SE Colorado had beef and sheep. A few self sustainers, ie raised their own for themselves, spoke against, but there was no one there specifically representing horses, goats, fowl...i was a bit disappointed by this.
A wonderful lady from Nebraska pointed out, this listening tour was being held during farmers and ranchers busiest time of the year and it was a huge burden for people to be away from their ranches, while the USDA and APHIS employees conducting the meetings were there doing their jobs, being paid, while we all were taking time off from our work or leaving it for others to do, or it was all waiting for us to come home to catch it up.
Repeatedly throughout the meeting the "facilitators" reminded us this meeting was not an attempt to reach a consensus about what parts of NAIS we could live with, we were reminded several time, the afternoon sessions were about giving us the opportunity to express our concerns further and offering solutions to the problems we see with NAIS and not about reaching a consensus.
Upon arriving, we were given an information packet, each packet had a colored dot on the front, which signified your afternoon break out group. The dots were only suggestions, they were not trying to divide and concur us, rather just have smaller groups for more personal discussions. At least, that is what they said. We could sit in on any group we desired.
Inside our packets was a list of seven questions, which were common complaints with the nais plan. These questions are posted on the Federal Register notice about the meetings. We were asked to address these questions in the afternoon session and offer solutions or compromises we could live with to our concerns with the current nais plan. There were 13 people in the group I sat in on. No one spoke directly to these questions, but continued to express an unwillingness to participate in nais in any form, with specific real world examples as to why they opposed the plan. There were 2 pro-nais people in my group and a brand inspector from WY, who wants a better trace back system than the current brand inspection process, but readily admitted the current system used in WY was very good, but not perfect.
One lady, in my group, who claimed to be anti-nais, but clearly kept steering the comments back to a solution or some kind of consensus on a system we could all live with. She was also very polite, but definitely a facilitator type, she thanked people for their comments, but "we are getting off topic and need to find a solution we can all live with.."
The afternoon meeting facilitators were skilled negotiators, they were soft spoken, never answered questions posed, politely reminded us they did not know NAIS well enough to answer questions. If someone asked or made several points, they repeated the points, always saying am I understanding you correctly? Are these the points you are trying to make? I don't want to misinterpret your questions, points or put words in your mouths?
Actual conversations were impossible, as you had to have the microphone to speak, as all conversations were recorded and would be transcribed for Mr. Vilsack to read at a later date, without names, of course.
To me the whole session felt more like an "okay, we listened, now go home and shut up" session.
So, it is very important to continues to voice your opposition to nais. if you haven't left a comment at the usda comment site, do so: www.usda.gov/nais
These are only my observations from the meeting, others certainly will have a different opinion about what when on and why. Hopefully, others who attended the meeting will post comments.
Sharon Croghan - Colorado
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