This week, the food freedom movement migrated westward, with a 3-2 vote by the Highland, Utah City Council. Up for consideration was a modified version of the food freedom ordinance that has been successfully been passed in cities in Maine and Vermont.
The ordinance was not met without opposition. The two dissenting votes were from councilmen who persistently and stubbornly affirmed their disagreement with the potential law. The arguments were those that are commonly heard in objection to similar efforts: defending it in court would be costly and our tight budget can’t handle the potential expense; it’s a message bill since nothing bad has happened here yet; it’s not our place to oppose the federal government; and by leading out on the issue, we’ll be painting a target on our backs.
Earlier in the meeting, one of the opposing council members took a moment of privilege to share some parting wisdom, as this was to be his last city council meeting. After imparting such nuggets of wisdom as “personal agendas taint the will of the legislative process” and “public clamor should never dictate public policy,” Councilman Larry Mendenhall declared that a council members’ position “should never be used as a bully pulpit to espouse or promote a larger political agenda. This is Highland, Utah — not Washington, D. C.”
Despite the obstacles, the sponsor, councilman Tom Butler, found allies in two other council members who agreed enough on principle with the ordinance to cast their votes in its favor. Its narrow passage put Utah on the map for food freedom, as one of only a handful of municipalities which has taken a stand against the federal government in favor of the individual liberty of its citizens.
The preamble of the ordinance declares:
We the People of the City of Highland, Utah County, Utah have the right to produce, process, sell, purchase, gift, donate, and consume local foods thus promoting self-reliance, the preservation of family farms, and local food traditions. We recognize that family farms, sustainable agricultural practices, and food processing by individuals, families and non-corporate entities offers stability to our rural way of life by enhancing the economic, environmental and social wealth of our community. As such, our right to a local food system requires us to assert our inherent right to self-government. We recognize the authority to protect that right as belonging to the City of Highland.
The operating clause of the ordinance reads as follows:
Producers or processors of local foods in the City of Highland are exempt from federal licensure and inspection requirements provided that the transaction is only between the producer or processor and a patron when the food is sold for home consumption or freely donated. This includes any producer or processor who sells his or her products at farmers’ markets or roadside stands; sells his or her products through farm-based sales directly to a patron; or delivers his or her products directly to patrons.
Its authority is specified in the ordinance as follows:
The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, which declares that governments are instituted to secure peoples’ rights, and that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed.
Article I, § 1 of the Utah Constitution, which declares: “All men have the inherent and inalienable right to enjoy and defend their lives and liberties; to acquire, possess and protect property…”
Article I, § 2 of the Utah Constitution, which declares: “All political power is inherent in the people; and all free governments are founded on their authority for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter or reform their government as the public welfare may require.”
The city of Highland, Utah has shown leadership on an issue which will soon be considered by the state legislature. A pending bill for consideration in the legislature’s 2012 general session, beginning next month, would invalidate federal laws within the entire state of Utah that seek to regulate food which is produced, sold/donated, and consumed within the state.
Both Highland’s ordinance and the pending Utah legislation recognize — despite legal council for each government citing Wickard v. Filburn to claim otherwise — that the federal government has no constitutional authority to regulate what we ourselves may produce and consume.
Ultimately, the success of such initiatives relies in large measure upon their adoption in cities, counties, and states throughout the country. Highland, Utah has positioned itself as the most recent municipality to take on the feds — more are soon to follow.