Friday, April 3, 2009

The Amish and the bailout?

Is an odd little case in northern Wisconsin involving the Amish related in any way to the bailout?

The case involves the Wisconsin department of ag, an Amish man named Emmanuel Miller.  It's over whether or not Mr. Miller must sign his land onto Premises ID, which the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection (DATCP) says needs to be mandatory .  A Republican representative named Scott Suder has drafted legislation to make it voluntary.  

State Representative Scott Suder's (R-Abbotsford) bill would make premises registration voluntary rather than the current mandatory policy. The lawmaker believes that was the original intent of the law signed in 2004. However Ehlenfeldt says with a voluntary policy, disease can still spread with overlooked animals.

"If you don't know all of it you still have a huge job to do to identify that population," says Ehlenfeldt.

Mr. Paul Griepentrog, a Wisconsin farmer who filed an amicus brief on behalf of Mr. Miller in court, says "Funny how Dr. Ihlenfeldt forgot to mention that he told us the program would be voluntary from the beginning." 

The law in Wisconsin relating to Premises ID specifically allows for religious exemptions but the state provided none of the material and is now suing Mr. Miller, whose religion strictly forbids such participation.

What is Premises ID?  It is part of NAIS (National Animal Identification System - though Wisconsin officials intermittently deny this), a global surveillance system for every single species of animal in the country using a GPS tracking tag inserted into the animal, and much more . 

Premises ID is promoted as necessary for tracing farm animals back to the farmer's land.  However, farmers have addresses already and are also easy to locate through fire and police departments.  And our current means of dealing with animal diseases has been so effective, it is one of the best in the world - without such a system.  

And even if you got rid of your animal, your property remains listed.  If you sell your property to someone without animals, your property remains listed.  

"Listed" is a euphemism for how fully your land is identified.  Global tracking coordinates are plotted.  Those and your name and personal information are fed into a corporate data bank which is being held outside the country, in Canada, where the Freedom of Information Act can't access it. 

Meanwhile, we have the peculiar fact that the USDA, which is pushing a massive surveillance system and recording of land location, supposedly to deal with dreaded animal diseases, is importing beef from other countries where there are active animal diseases we don't currently have here because our present system has been so effective.  Even up to today, our farmers and ranchers are fighting the USDA to defend the health of their animals - from foot and mouth, Mad Cow, tuberculosis, and more.  And it was ranchers who sued the USDA to test for Mad Cow and were refused.    

So, if the USDA has been refusing to inspect for Mad Cow and even has been sued for intimidating food inspectors who wish to inspect and is pressing to bring in animals from countries where there are diseases, how serious are they about animal diseases?  

And if not so serious (or even lax), then why are they so intent on Premises ID that they have been harassing farmers, lying to them, coercing them, forcing them on against their will by using vets to put them if they show up with a sick animal, paying 4-H kids to sign up their parents and neighbors, and even putting people on without their knowing?  

Farmers are very concerned about Premises ID because of the word "premises" itself, which is an international term.  It appears that signing onto "Premises" ID would change them from owners of their land to stakeholders in their land .  They have repeatedly written to the USDA for reassurance their land is not being taken from them.  The USDA has not answered them.  

From Doreen Hannes, farmer, state of Missouri:

"As evidence of the neglect of this agency to answer as to the effects of this program upon unalienable rights, please reference these questions that went unanswered by the previous and current Secretary of the USDA as well as the other enumerated questions in my previous comment entry on this proposed rule." 

1.      What is the specific authority that grants USDA the power to register personal real estate as a premises without prior consent, power of attorney in fact, or by persons lacking legal age or capacity?

2.      Does registration of real property as a premises become a permanent assignment to the affected property?

3.      Does registration of real property as a premises constitute a burden or encumbrance on the affected property?

4.      Does registration of real property as a premises alter, impair, diminish, divest, or destroy allodial title of land patentees, or heirs or assigns? 

5.     Does registration of real property as a premises constitute a taking as defined in the5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

6.    Will those affected by premises registration of real property be compensated for any taking, in what amount, by what standard of elevation, and frequency?

7.    Does an agency memorandum, on premises registration of real property, stand as an act of law?

8.    Where, by an Act of Congress as legislated within the bounds of Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, has USDA been given authority to register real property as a premises or otherwise implement the National Animal Identification System

9.    Where in the U.S. Constitution is USDA given authority to register real property as a premises or otherwise implement the National Animal Identification System? 

10. Will future land title and use of private real estate be impacted by implementation of the National Animal Identification System, resulting in further Federal regulation or authority?

And many ask, with farmers reduced to mere "stake holders" in their land, for whom are they holding the stake?

Since the FDA has had to be sued to get it to tell the truth, since its own scientists have revolted against it just as USDA inspectors have against it, since it has overstepped its regulatory authority to prevent even a reference to safer pain management while allowing thousands to keep dying annually from NSAIDs, what basis do we have for believing the bills merging of the USDA and FDA are about "food safety"?  

Premises ID is buried within the NAIS portion of those many, many, many "food safety" bills being pushed through Congress.  Since the USDA has had to be sued by farmers to try to get it to protect them from animal diseases and and by its own inspectors to be allowed to inspect, on what basis do we believe that Premises ID is about protecting the country from animal diseases?  

Beset with unanswered questions about the bills, farming communities fear that an animal-related disease could be used force those bills through.


Meanwhile, as the bailout continues and billions and trillions of debt piles up, farmers and ranchers, practical people, wonder what collateral has been offered?  And as they look out over their animals grazing peacefully on grass in the fields, they think how little in this country has any value now, and the words of their grandparents come back to them, "the only thing of real value is land."    

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