RALEIGH — A controversial decision by state agriculture officials is drawing the ire of backyard chicken owners and supporters.
The N.C. Department of Agricutlure and Consumer Services issued a statement Wednesday saying it is now requiring all poultry owners, regardless of the number of birds, to register for an NCFarmID number.
The identification program is usually voluntary, but has been made mandatory for all backyard poultry farmers.
“In planning our response for highly pathogenic avian influenza, one problem we’ve come across is that we can’t protect birds that we don’t know exist,” said State Veterinarian Doug Meckes. “We need to know where poultry are located so we can properly protect commercial and backyard flocks.”
Officials say the information used “solely for animal health purposes” and “will provide animal health officials with necessary contact information in case of an animal health concern.”
However, some state residents see the measure as nothing more than government overreach.
“They claim that it is to protect N.C. poultry from the bird flu, but it feels like they are using this as an excuse to target and track owners of backyard chickens,” said Nicole Revels, a conservative activist from Caldwell County. “There has not been a single case of the avian flu in North Carolina.”
When she heard about the registration Thursday, Revels created a Facebook page called “NO to NC Chicken Registration,” which garnered more than 350 “likes” within 36 hours.
There is also a link to a petition demanding state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler “rescind this decree and work to protect our right to do as we choose on our own property without having to ask for government permission.”
“Also there is something to be said about the fact that this measure is implemented by way of declaration of Steve Troxler rather than by a legislative process in which the people have input and representation,” Revels added. “I voted for Steve Troxler in 2012, but I never thought he would use the position to bring about this kind of action.”
According to Revels, it is already difficult enough for many people to have backyard chickens, due to local restrictions.
Several municipalities in Richmond County have such restrictions.
No fowl are permitted in the city of Hamlet, according to Zoning Coordinator Gail Strickland. Ellerbe Mayor Lee Berry said residents in that town are allowed to have up to 12 hens, but no roosters.
Revels, a homeschooling mother, said she was planning to get backyard chickens as a part of this year’s curriculum for her 7-year-old son, but now feels targeted with the implementation of a further data collection measure.
“The state stepping in with an additional compliance measure just makes it more difficult for individuals to live an independent life free from the interference of elected officials and bureaucrats,” she said.
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.