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Judge Rejects Farmers' RFID Lawsuit
The U.S. District Court has dismissed claims by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund that Michigan's mandatory cattle-tagging program violates federal laws.
Jul 30, 2009—A federal judge has quashed a lawsuit instituted by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF). The national nonprofit organization, representing small farmers, filed the suit in 2008 against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA).
The FTCLDF had argued that the USDA's National Animal Identification System (NAIS) violated federal laws, and that the MDA's cattle-tracking program—which requires all Michigan cattle farmers to identify every animal by means of an RFID tag—is a financial burden to small farmers. In addition, the group had maintained that NAIS violates the religious freedoms of cattle owners who believe God prohibits their participation in any sort of governmental regulatory system that imposes upon them a "mark of the beast," as described in the Bible's Book of Revelations.
The FTCLDF also claimed that rules under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) were violated—namely, that environmental, economic and social impacts were not properly evaluated before the establishment of Michigan's and the USDA's cattle-tracking programs. What's more, the suit contended that the USDA unfairly pressured the state into adopting a mandatory cattle-identification program.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer determined, however, in a July 23 decision, that the MDA's program was not influenced by the USDA, indicating that the agency does not require any state or rancher to employ RFID technology to track cattle. The judge ruled that the MDA program was instead a state regulation subject to Michigan's laws, rather than those of the federal government. For that reason, she ruled the counts against the MDA to be invalid. In her decision, Judge Collyer noted that with NAIS, states "may choose to keep premises registration voluntary or not, based on local needs."
Furthermore, the judge ruled that "each of [the] plaintiffs' six counts against USDA hinges on the erroneous assertion that NAIS requires the registration of PINs and the use of RFID tags.... NAIS is neither 'federal law' nor 'federal regulation.' It is an identification and tracking program developed by USDA and adopted by state agriculture departments on a voluntary basis." She, therefore, dismissed the plaintiffs' counts against the USDA.
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