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Illinois Tries to Keep Kids’ Personal Information Behind the Barn Door

May 27, 2008

Springfield, IL – Parents have been protesting an Illinois Department of Agriculture rule they consider intrusive and unnecessary. It requires that details about children, and the farms on which they live, be handed over to the state before Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4-H competitions at fairs. Recently, the General Assembly agreed with them, introducing a bill to scale back a rule that some believe goes too far.

The information was being gathered in anticipation of a "National Animal ID System" that's still in the works. Judith McGeary, executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, explains privacy isn't the only concern. She says the system would only guarantee more paperwork, which is expensive for family farms, with no assurance that the food supply would be any safer.

"Bureaucracy and technology on top of that, making it more expensive and more intrusive, without actually improving those mechanisms."

McGeary says details on the animal identification system are still sketchy, and a lot of personal and private business information was being gathered under the short-lived state registration requirement.

"We don't know all the consequences. There are still a lot of question marks, a lot of uncertainties, and that's why a lot of these kids' parents were against the program."

The goal of the National Animal ID System is to make it easier to trace animals if there is a disease outbreak, but McGeary says health certifications already are required for animals being exhibited or competing at fairs. If the Illinois legislation becomes law, farmers and kids will be able to withdraw registrations that they have previously submitted.

Deborah Smith/Steve Powers, Public News Service - IL