In the context of consumer safety and world market impacts of animal diseases, including the 2003 outbreak of BSE or mad cow, the U.S. government is developing a National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Its goal is to “be able to identify all animals and premises that have had contact with a foreign or domestic animal disease of concern within 48 hours after discovery.” The initiative is supported by many large agribusinesses and corporate farm dominated associations. In Wisconsin, the legislature has committed the state to being one of the first implementers of the new system.

Family Farm Defenders, a politically progressive, community-based advocacy group in Madison, Wisconsin, and many within its networks, believe that NAIS will have a negative impact on the state’s small family farms. They fear that corporations have hidden agendas, that the system will be an economic burden on struggling farmers, that it will intrude on the farmer’s rights to privacy, as well as the religious rights of many farmers, including the Amish.

This paper describes and critiques these competing analyses. It then discusses the advocacy strategy used by Family Farm Defenders to block implementation of NAIS in Wisconsin and the outcomes of those efforts, including the strengths and weaknesses of the advocacy effort. The paper concludes with general lessons to be learned from their campaign.


Agricultural and Resource Economics | Inequality and Stratification