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Defending the Free Market of Food

By Andrew Ward

Yesterday, I joined Deborah Stockton, President of the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (NICFA), and Joel Salatin, author of the wildly popular “Everything I Want to Do is Illegal,” in lobbying our senators to vote against S.510, the so-called “Food Safety Modernization Act.”

We were not alone.  Many other consumers and producers of local foods spoke with their representatives about the dangers and consequences of granting the FDA even more power over the food “industry,” which would undoubtedly put an unfair burden on the suppliers of  arguably the most healthy food in America.

S.510 gives sweeping new powers to the inefficient FDA to invade local farms if they have “reason to believe” a food-borne illness exists, and quarantine or shut the farm down.  An FDA agent could decide that raw milk, for instance, was “adulterated” or “misbranded,” and that therefore the farm should be shut down.  On top of that, the bill would also apply strict internationalist standards, which include the slaughterhouse-destroying HAACP and International Plant Protection Convention’s burdensome “Pest Free” standard, to small farms.  In short, it’s the Patriot Act of Foods, and will bring unabsorbable regulations to small restaurants, farmers, and individual producers of food.

The belief from Congress seems to be that everyone involved with food needs to be regulated by the government in order to reduce the risk of mass amounts of people getting sick.  What they don’t seem to understand is that the farmer to consumer system is already regulated by a market that thrives on reputation instead of a rubber stamp by government bureaucrats.  If there is ever an issue with the food, the consumer goes directly to the intermediary or farmer, and the problem is resolved.  The suppliers are held accountable by their clientele who are naturally in a position of power.

Contrast this kind of decentralized, consumer-driven regulation with the political FDA monopoly, which tends to let barely-tested drugs and foods through, while barring potential life-saving products from entry into the larger market.  In the government’s monopolized system of regulation there isn’t substantial accountability, and producers of harmful products and foods have less incentive to ensure that what they are supplying to the public is safe.

Well, the Utopian mindset of Congress-persons was certainly on display yesterday, but progress was made to convince many well-meaning statists that their laws were at best ineffective, and at worst destructive to localities.  A reception full of delicious restaurant-prepared local and farmer food was held after the hours of lobbying, and Congressman Ron Paul was kind enough to speak to the large crowd of activists and congressional staffers about liberty and health freedom.  It was overall a very productive lobbying day, and many minds were open to alternatives to government regulation as the answer to our health and safety woes.

Despite existing corporatist laws on the books that make it difficult for small time growers and suppliers of food to survive, the market for unsterilized, unpasteurized, organic farmer food is skyrocketing.  From the looks of it, this “well-intended” piece of legislation is aimed at crippling these grassroots markets to the delight of giant international food conglomerates.  So even if you are not (yet) a producer or consumer of these foods, please take the time to contact your senators and tell them to oppose S.510, the anti-farmer, anti-locality Food Sterlization Act.

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