The U.S. Department of Agriculture claims that its Animal Identification System is "voluntary." Someone at the USDA needs to explain the meaning of "voluntary" to the 4-H and Future Farmers of America kids who were not allowed to show or sell their animal projects at the Colorado State Fair because — they were told — the property where their animals were raised was not registered in the National Animal Identification System.

This does not sound like a "voluntary" system.

As shameful as this situation is, the USDA stoops even lower by bribing the FFA with a $633,000 grant to get agriculture teachers across the nation to tell their students to get their parents to register their property in the NAIS. And the bribery doesn't stop with the FFA. More than $100 million has been spent trying to impose this national program that will be a profit-maker for the manufacturers of the animal identification tags and tag-reading equipment as well as the big meat exporters who hope to open new international markets.

This profit for the big guys comes at the expense of animal producers.

The USDA pretends that the NAIS program is to identify and trace the source of a diseased animal within 48 hours. There are already systems in place for protecting livestock and our food supply. There has not been a case of hoof and mouth disease in the United States since 1929; U.S. meat is the safest and most desired in the world.

The Utah Department of Agriculture and the Utah Legislature need to abandon the NAIS. It is costly and totally unnecessary. It won't track animal disease outbreak and — more importantly — it violates Fourth Amendment rights when it comes to being secure in your "persons, houses, papers and effects."

Bert N. Smith is a livestock rancher from Ogden.