I chatted with FarmGirl about this via an email exchange and she seems pretty upset about it. She wrote,
"Small farmers will nearly all be wiped out--myself included. We won't even be able to keep a couple of chickens for our own eggs or raise a lamb for meat without paying huge fees, installing chips in the animals, and filling out tons of paperwork."
The USDA program that has FarmGirl and other small farmers so upset seems to have been created in response to recent occurrences of mad cow disease, the coming threat of Avian influenza viri H5 & H7 and the need to assure domestic and foreign markets that US food products are safe to consume.
If universally adopted, the NAIS (National Animal Inspection Service) program would give anyone who owns livestock a PIN (Premises Identification Number). Each animal would also be assigned an AIN (Animal Identification Number) linked to the PIN and have an RFD (Radio Frequency Device) chip installed with the PIN and AIN numbers, and additional information such as date of birth, species data, lineage etc.
The ultimate goal appears to be to give the USDA the ability to trace the animals as they move from the farm to the supermarket. So if an animal suddenly shows sign of disease, it'd be easier to discover where it became infected. Also if someone eats something that makes him ill, the source of the disease vector can be located quickly. However, there does not appear to be any mechanism in place to do this at the present time.
I must confess to being a bit puzzled by FarmGirl's reaction to the economic implications of NAIS to herself and other small farmers -from all appearences the program appears to be voluntary.
It may be that she believes that the USDA's claim that the NAIS is voluntary is specious and that there is some secret plan afoot to make it mandatory. But I doubt it.
It's more likely that the real threat of mandatory compliance will come from the state level of government. And what FarmGirl and others are really worried about is that individual states will seek to protect their agricultural markets by forcing all owners of livestock to comply. If that happens, then depending on what state they are in, a farmer with a cow and two chickens and ten acres to tend, could be in for big trouble.