The Path that Got Me Here
Early on, I grew up like most people, believing that all government regulations are good. And, we just need even more to stop the problems we encounter. All the fears in our lives can be legislated away, and if the government just locked themselves up in a room, they can solve all our problems.
However that was breaking down after just one semester in grad school. I took a class on exposure, risk management, and regulation. I found I was constantly being talked into circles. There was never an answer to “how clean is clean?” I learned that there are only a handful of chemicals we truly know about. And I even found chemical dose response guidelines from federal regulatory agencies don’t necessarily allow you to translate animal to human exposure. Yet, for most publications it is custom to always sight a government standard. Surprisingly, after attending a national conference, I saw many industries just sick of this model. And instead they were pulling away from government standards. Instead, industries were testing their own products that had risks of toxic exposure and formed their own risk management plan that didn’t coincide with government standards. One that was accurate to human exposure and response.
This experience was just one of the first steps in the direction that ended the idea that federal regulatory agencies have an answer for everything. I’m not saying that these agencies were meant to be evil. In fact, there is plenty of good safety information on their websites and in their articles. I just believe that most things that become law flow from good intentions.
Some of those good intentions are now controlling peoples’ lives.
Therein lies the evil. It’s like voting for either political party’s agenda. One day you just wake up and realize, they are both crap and you need to find a better way that doesn’t involve them.
The next step in solidifying my path came from something one of my friends said.
“It’s not that I’m against regulation; it’s that I’m against over-regulation. She like I, has a background in science. She works for a private regulatory agency. But, instead of the antagonistic relationships government breeds, she proactively works to improve a relationships with other businesses. In another words, private businesses seek her out!
Instead of fining, citing, or even shutting down companies, she improves manufacturing processes to decrease risk, exposure, and to help improve productivity. The illusion is that libertarians don’t care. But that isn’t the case. No one wants to buy a defective or harmful product, and no one wants to sell a defective or harmful product. But, through voluntary action among industries, risk can be decreased. In fact, I had no idea these industries actually existed until she started telling me a few stories from her job. I only knew about government agencies and their reactive stance.
After all this, I realized that along the way we stopped wanting to be responsible for ourselves Like many people, I grew up in a world that trusted every word a government regulatory agency said. As a result, some of us have lost a liberty we didn’t even know we had. And others are criminalized for actions that deviate from the prescribed rules they have written out. We have been led to believe that we can live in a world without risk, and we don’t have to burden ourselves with any responsibility.
The fact is, risk is never eliminated. And, we must not transfer our responsibility to choose onto the government. The moment we do is the moment we lose choice and control of our lives. Therein lies the fight in the current local food and self sustainability movement.
The Food Surveillance State
As I started to disagree with more and more regulation, more and more regulation was occurring. Especially in the food industry. The vast amount of red tape in the food surveillance state originate from many departments: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Center for Disease Control (CDC), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and even Health and Human Services (HHS), and even the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Each bureaucracy overlapping in some way with each other, controlling what you and I eat.
Many people choose to buy or sell food locally. Reasons include everything from freshness, to health benefits, to ethical treatment of animals, to supporting local economies, and even an attempt to remain in control of their own food supply. But as the surveillance state grows, the ability of people to sell or buy food locally diminishes. Yes, food is under surveillance! This is not just about food safety issue, but a national security issue as well! Under this surveillance certain local food products are targeted like raw milk, raw cheese aged under 60 days, canneries, and even the handling of organic vegetables.
There agencies have created a monitoring system with doctors and state regulatory agencies. However there are a few assumptions by the public.
1. These agencies provide a timely service that will get contaminated off the shelves before it gets to the consumer. Actually, the food surveillance network isn’t fast at all. After doctors and states agencies report outbreaks to the federal government, investigation will assume. After which, it will be determined where a possible outbreak started and what the public should do. This can take a minimum of three months.
2. Belief that these agencies provide the testing. Actually, they compile data from other private or state laboratories and doctors.
3. Recalls of food products suspected of pathogens were not mandatory, with the exception of baby formula. Recalls are actually voluntary. Some companies choose to not even issue a recall, or would word a recalls to not sound alarming. Reason being, it is very hard to build confidence with the public to buy post-recalled food. However, after the signing of the Food Modernization Act, voluntary recalls have changed.
In 2011, the CDC reported that 1 in 6 people get sick from food borne illness, 128,000 people are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. Yet, close to 2% of the US agricultural products are from local farms. Products like raw milk and canneries are being cracked down on by federal agencies as if it were a drug ring.
And as some of these things became more apparent, more and more regulation was requested by these agencies to try and stop these failures.
In the FDA Food Modernization Act (FMSA) more control and over reach that is supposed to eliminate the one size fits all rule the feds are so notoriously known for.
This bill also includes the surveillance on local small businesses, so agencies will have to register the size of the farm to “include consideration of harvestable acres, income, the number of employees, and the volume of food harvested.” The FMSA caps small business to be no bigger than $500,000 in a three year period. It requires small business to own certain equipment to comply with safety standards that may cripple small businesses. FMSA, has instituted mandatory recalls and lifts of exemption status to business that have safety issues.
Enforcement for provisions of the FMSA require coordination with State and local officials. Without a state statute to coordinate, federal agencies cannot enforce this law. Subsections for enforcement say they ” provide for coordination of education and enforcement activities by State and local officials, as designated by the Governors of the respective States or the appropriate elected State official as recognized by State statute.”
And while I can understand the good intention behind the food surveillance network’s attempt to decrease pathogens and warn the public in factory farm foods distributed across state lines, crack down raw milk, canneries, and other local food products is killing businesses.
Many ordinary farmers are becoming criminals.
While the FDA persists that raw milk is never safely consumed, other reports come out stating that risk to pathogens in raw milk is low. Since 1949, the sale of raw milk products have been outlawed, 21 years longer than the federal government’s unconstitutional ban on weed.
While some states allow farms to sell raw milk within the state, the federal government has outlawed its sale like a Federally Scheduled 1 drug. Raids take place where federal agencies along with state and local law enforcement, with guns drawn, shut down farms and local sales of raw milk products.
In an article from realmilk.com, it Dr. Ted Beals countered that you were 35,000 times more likely to become ill from any other food than raw milk, and yet this product is treated as one of the worst types of contraband that could possibly exist.
Even locally made food that is canned, dry, or even being sold at bake sales are being targeted by FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices designed for large scale production. This crackdown has sparked cottage food bills to be introduced through many states and localities to protect against the targeted of low risk foods sold directly to the consumer. Likewise individuals owning chickens are being fined for owning poultry on their own land.
These crackdowns are not just mere hinderances, they are the death knell for many small farms, roadside business, and out-of-home sellers.
The Food Freedom Movement
With all the federal regulations, there are already local ordinances and state laws that also regulate locally produced food.
States are divided up into two statuses. Some states, through their state constitution, give power to localities to regulate particular areas such as food. These are called Home Rule states, whereas, localities with no inherent power are called Dillion Rule states. Most farmers are finding their states and even localities as a barrier between the feds and them.
There are many actions you can take at a state level and even local level (if your state provides those powers).
1. Introduce legislation to reject enforcement of FMSA. Protect local farmers. Set up state laws that prohibit federal authorities from spying on farms, requiring registrations, requiring labeling, and even requiring the release of documents and records by mere suspicion.
2. States already have laws pertaining to food regulation. There is no need for redundancy. Food is also sold locally and rarely does not show massive outbreaks that federal authorities usually detect, usually due to under-reporting. States should regulate their own food industry. Introduce legislation to stop the coordination with federal agencies.
3. Reject federal authority to regulate intrastate commerce. States are to protect intrastate commerce. Introduce legislation to protect the production, sale, and consumption of local foods of their choosing.
4. Introduce legislation for the right to private association in production and consumption of food. Protect herdshares and dairy shares.
In Home Rule states, guidelines already exist for many small farm business on safety, testing, and monitoring outbreaks. Communities should interact with each other to decide what is best for farmer and consumers while addressing concerns with doctors, scientists, and representatives. Educate each other on health of animals, animal products, or other foods, establish safety guidelines that are appropriate for small farms, and determine best practices for risk management that is appropriate for small farms, community member and responses to outbreaks..
1. Form local channels to communicate possible food contamination and food illnesses. Instead of waiting on Washington DC to come up with a cite, fine, and shut down. Encourage the practices of a proactive approach, instead of reactive. Many industries have already created their own standards within their own communities and are industry driven as opposed to government driven. Organizations like: the National Fire Protection Association, American Petroleum Institute, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and – American Institute of CHemical Engineers/Center for Chemical Process Safety.
2. Allow farmers to coordinate resources with each other. In Maine, legislation proposed would allow farmers to rent slaughterhouse facilities to other farmers while another bill would allow for a mobile slaughterhouse facility for poultry.
3. Learn about Jury Nullification. As a community member, you are responsible to not only judge a person of a crime as a member of the jury, but you are also required to judge the law.
4. End zoning ordinances that ban front yard gardens, owning of poultry, or eliminates food freedom based on location.
5. Pass ordinances that gives citizens in your state the right “to produce, sell, purchase, and consume local foods of their choosing. Also allow private contracts and waivers of liability.
Great links to local and state legislation already going around in the union.
The federal government has not solved all the food problems that occur. Food borne illnesses will occur in thousands of people every year from products believed safe. And while, I do believe in some regulation to decrease risk, it is just something that will always be in our lives. The only thing that has resulted from these federal regulations is an increase in the surveillance state and an aggressive interventionist domestic policy where local farmers are finding themselves at the opposite side of a gun. And, at times, jobless. Instead, states and communities need to protect their own farmers and citizens right to choose food.
Ron Paul once said, “Freedom is not defined by safety. Freedom is defined by the ability of citizens to live without government interference. Government cannot create a world without risks, nor would we really wish to live in such a fictional place. Only a totalitarian society would even claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total state control over its citizens’ lives. Liberty has meaning only if we still believe in it when terrible things happen and a false government security blanket beckons.”
We do not live in a world without risk. But, with even the risks out there, we must be able to have the freedom to choose what we eat.