The Green Scene

So what was Copenhagen all about?

A half-dozen Asheville climate scientists and educators attended COP 15 — the Copenhagen climate conference — in December. And on Friday, Feb. 26, four of them will offer their perspectives in an event co-hosted by the Buncombe County chapter of the Western North Carolina Alliance and Asheville Green Drinks. The latter group, a weekly, self-described "networking party," hosts speaker/panel discussions at downtown Asheville's BoBo Gallery.

Count your goats: The feds have dropped a plan to require almost all farmers to maintain animal-identification records — the National Animal Identification System — and have instead opted for a more flexible approach. Photo by Ron Searcy

The panelists will include climate scientist Ned Gardiner of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; David McConville, co-founder of The Elumenati, a local design firm that delivered educational, immersive climate programming during the conference; Ellie Johnston, a UNCA student who represented world youth; and Michael Leahey, sustainability coordinator for the Asheville Hub Sustainability Task Force.

The program starts at 6 p.m. at BoBo Gallery (22 N. Lexington Ave. in Asheville). For more information, visit

Feds drop animal ID program

Word is spreading via Twitter and small-farm listserves that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is dropping the National Animal Identification System, a proposed program to monitor the movement of all U.S. livestock. The plan encountered widespread resistance from small-scale farmers, who argued that it would bankrupt them, among other concerns.

At a Feb. 5 press conference, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced: "After concluding our listening tour on the National Animal Identification System in 15 cities across the country, receiving thousands of comments from the public and input from states, tribal nations, industry groups and representatives of small and organic farmers, it is apparent that a new strategy for animal-disease traceability is needed. I've decided to revise the prior policy and offer a new approach … with changes that respond directly to the feedback we heard."

The revised policy will apply only to animals moved across state lines. Administered by the states and tribal nations, it will encourage low-cost technology and "be implemented transparently through federal regulations and the full rule-making process." In the first steps toward a revised, flexible policy, the USDA will convene a forum for animal-health leaders and revamp the secretary's Advisory Committee on Animal Health "to address specific issues, such as confidentiality and liability."

Those were just a few of the concerns raised when the agency proposed the program about four years ago. Here's what an Xpress article about the proposal had to say back then (see "What the Bleat Do They Know?" March 29, 2006 Xpress):

"The National Animal Identification System, conceived in the wake of the mad cow disease scare, envisions a central database that would enable public officials to trace any animal in the U.S. back to its farm of origin within 48 hours. This, it's argued, would help keep sick animals out of the food system — or, in the case of a disease outbreak, get a quarantine in place.

The NAIS, a joint project of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and individual states, is voluntary for now. A draft plan, released last April, lays out a tentative timeline for phasing in the program. … At present, however, the plan calls for requiring anyone who keeps livestock — from alpacas to cattle to the casual chicken — to register their farm or other property with a unique, seven-digit 'premises ID' by 2008. And the following year, producers would have to go further, identifying any animals that might ever leave the property.

"I understand that you've got to have a license to have a gun," said Sherry Williams, who raises nearly 50 dairy goats, including La Manchas, at her Listening Eagle Farm near Marion. "But now they're telling me I have to have a license to farm? That's exactly what this is."

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About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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