Press Release: Farming and Consumer Organizations Urge Wisconsin Court to Strike Down


December 2, 2009

Farming and Consumer Organizations Urge Wisconsin Court to Strike Down
Mandatory Premises Registration in Face of Religious Objections

(Austin, TX) — Twenty-two organizations submitted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief to the Wisconsin Clark County Circuit Court in support of Amish farmer Emanuel Miller, Jr., who is being prosecuted by the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) for failing to register his property under the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

The brief, which was filed in response to a Court request for a briefing on the issue of Miller’s religious freedom defense, asserts that mandatory premises registration burdens Miller’s sincere religious beliefs and does not serve a compelling government interest.

Premises registration is the first step in the NAIS program, which would ultimately require animal identification and animal tracking. According to Mr. Miller and many Old Order Amish, participating in any portion of NAIS is against their deeply held religious beliefs.

As the brief states, “The State of Wisconsin has placed the Amish on a razor’s edge. If they comply with the law then they will violate their religious beliefs. If they comply with their religious beliefs, they must violate the law or divest their livestock and sacrifice their way of life. Either way the State has placed the Amish in an unconscionable position.” The Amish rely on livestock, including horses, for their food and transportation.

The case has drawn national concern because of the threat NAIS poses to small farmers and livestock owners in all states. “Emanuel Miller is part of a specific group whose religious beliefs do not allow them to participate in NAIS,” says Howard Vlieger, a Board member of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, one of the amici organizations, and President of Verity Farms.

“However, the burden of mandatory premises registration and other NAIS-related regulations is something that would unfairly burden all small farmers, ranchers, and homesteaders. We hope that the Court will recognize that this program does not improve animal health or food safety, and it improperly burdens individuals’ rights.”

The amici brief also argues that premises registration and NAIS do not prevent, detect, or treat disease. The sole goal of NAIS is to facilitate a government response to an outbreak of disease, but there is no evidence that it has any benefits over the current animal disease programs, and the evidence at the hearing showed that it may even slow down the response if a disease outbreak were to occur.

A copy of the briefing and a list of amici curiae signatories are available at:


About the Farm and Ranch Freedom Organization (FARFA): FARFA advocates for farmers, ranchers, and homesteaders through public education and lobbying to assure their independence in the production and marketing of their food, and to prevent the imposition of unnecessary regulatory burdens that are not in the public interest. FARFA also advocates for consumers’ access to information and resources to obtain healthy foods of their choice. FARFA promotes connections between rural and urban communities to support diversified, local agricultural systems.

Judith McGeary
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance