WisBusiness: Animal ID proposal concerns Amish

By Gregg Hoffmann

The Amish in southwest Wisconsin will have some special interest when the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCAP) meets this Wednesday in Madison.

A state law requires all farms with animals to register with the state and get a farm identification number. An animal ID component that would require the registration of individual animals has been put on hold, but is what most concerns the Amish community.

At a recent meeting in Cashton in Monroe County, a number of Amish farmers said the selling and buying of animals that are numbered is considered dealing with the “mark of the beast.” The Amish said if the animal ID section of the state law would be enforced it would force them to choose between their livelihood and religious beliefs.

About 200 Amish farmers recently met with State Senator Dan Kapanke and former State Senator Brian Rude, who sits on the DATCAP board.

One Amish farmer said at the meeting, “Look at all the electronic gadgets in the world, have they done more good for the American family or have they done more evil?”

State officials have given farmers more than a year to come into compliance with the law, but as of May 1 it will not be possible for any dairy producer to renew their dairy license without a premises identification number. There has been a high degree of acceptance in the Amish community, but there are some religious concerns among some Amish groups in the Coulee Region.

Several Amish farmers also have objected to the fact they were given a premises ID number without their knowledge.

Some of the farmers at the meeting said they may stop selling milk and/or animals if they cannot operate without the number.

Kapanke and Rude said the law is likely here to stay. Both were also aware of fear in the Amish community over the law.

“I think there was a letter sent out that said, ‘If you don’t follow the law their will be fines, etc.,’” Rude said at the meeting. “I think we can get people to participate in this without being threatening or using heavy-handed tactics like that.”

The ID number proposal was included in the law in case of epidemics among livestock or even terrorism against food supplies.