Posted By Vicki McClure Davidson on March 26, 2009
By Vicki McClure Davidson * Frugal Café Blog Zone
This is the second year that I’ve planted a vegetable and herb garden for our family. With the times being as tough as they are, it makes sense as one of the means available for my family to cut back on food expenses. I love the freshness of my own organic vegetables and herbs, free of chemicals. And I love working with soil, the land, as so many generations of American farmers currently do and have done long before us. It’s part of our heritage as Americans. And home gardens and small family farms save a lot of food-budget money.
However, for me, and millions of other Americans like me, the frugal home garden or small family farm could become an endangered species. Browsing, sampling, and buying fresh produce at a local farmers’ market on a crisp Saturday afternoon will become a dim memory. This is because of the language presented in Obama’s bill, that which is contained in HR 875, Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009:
[HR 875] was introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT 3rd) and, as of this writing, has around 36 co-sponsors including my Congressman, Andre Carson (D-IN 7th). It immediately strikes me as being terribly bad legislation.
Under a heading described as protecting the public health and ensuring the safety of food it creates a “Food Safety Administration” within Health and Human Services. Oddly, it doesn’t just add regulations to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) which is also under HHS. And don’t we have the USDA as well? The bill applies to all manner of “Food Establishments” and “Food Production Facilities” (note the following excerpt).
(14) FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term ‘food production facility’ means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.
The bill would appear to even cover some fishing boats and potentially your downtown hot dog street vendors. “Transportion” of food also could be covered. In fact, the bill probably would also apply to your family garden since no exemption is apparent.
What it essentially does is place a tremendous regulatory burden on all of these organizations and individuals by requiring them to have “food safety plans”, consider all relevant hazards [note: I wish Congress would consider all “relevant hazards” or unintended consequences of everything THEY did], testing, sample keeping, and to maintain all kinds of records. The bill also allows the government to dictate all manner of standards related to fertilizer use, nutrients, packaging, temperature controls, and other items.
This massive bloat in government regulation (and taxpayer expense to support it) would add additional cost and headache to every farm, some fishing boats, slaughterhouse, processing plant, CO-OP and anyone else associated with growing, storing, transporting or processing food. The bill authorizes fines of up to $1,000,000 (one million) dollars for “each act” and for “each day” of a violation.
We’ll skip over the concern over how important food production and distribution, largely recession proof, could be if our economy continues to decline and inflation takes hold and just address this on the apparent lunacy that it is. As those familiar with history know, large dominant corporations often will use government to demand industry regulations that force the small competitor out of business or introduce barriers to entry that prevent new companies from starting up to compete. In the early part of the 20th century, a tremendous amount of regulation was written by the industries themselves to be enacted into law.
In this case, I think this bill could do tremendous harm to family farms or independent food operators. Only massive companies have the ability to meet these regulations and imagine the legal expenses that could be incurred to defend oneself? Never forget, the government has near unlimited resources where you might have to cough up $200 to $500 an hour for a good attorney to defend yourself, your farm, boat, truck, restaurant, orchard, vineyard, or hot dog stand. And what about the increased cost of food associated with the cost of compliance, it’s not unreasonable to think that many places would have to hire staff or outside assistance just to comply with the law.
I’m hopeful that Congress will recognize that the language in HR 875 needs to be revised or clarified. But, Congress’s track record to date to reading any of the trillion-dollar porkulus bills and/or removing or revising the language contained therein has been dismal and sloppy.
UPDATE: June 22, 2009
RFD America: Iraqi Order 81 Enforced on American Family Farms
Here’s another video about the congressional banning of organic gardens and farms:
NewsBusters: WaPo Publishes Sunny Farmers Markets Story; Ignores Congressional Threat
Bob Pritts, WilsonCountyNews: The Death of Farmers’ Markets, CSA’s, and Local Food Production
Bloomberg.com: Farmers Want Obama to Make Carbon a Cash Crop Under Climate Law
Evan Thomas, Newsweek: Obama’s Nobel Headache