Cows at my favorite local farm, AppleCheek Farm
Do we as Americans have a right to chose the foods we eat? Seems like a simple enough question, and I am sure that many of you reading this, think of course we do! After all this is America, land of the free…But it would be a mistake to become complacent about the food that is available. Our complacency will lead to the extinction of small family farms and in turn local food systems. This is one of the MAJOR issues of our times. Think about it. Think how deep it goes, how over-arching. If Americans lose the right to chose what foods they eat, it is major infringement on our rights as a free people.
I know when we moved out to the country to start raising animals and vegetables for food, I had a lovely idyllic dream that one day, sooner than later, I would sell sheep and goat cheese at our many local farmers markets. It would be a way for me to share my love of these animals and the wonderful delicious and healthy food that can be made from their milk. The American Dream, right? Well for small farms it is more of a nightmare. In the name of food safety the government has passed and is soon to be passing more legislation that calls into question the ability of small farms to even operate and exist. Through this legislation small farms are set up for fines, seizures of product and even jail time. If we allow this to happen, where will it stop?
There is some legislation that is up for vote imminently. That is S510 designed to provide greater controls for food safety. However, if the bill passes the FDA with have greater control over the ability to execute raids, seize products and force recalls on small producers. The Farm-to-consumer Legal Defense Fund, who spoke about the bill at Wise Traditions, explained that the bill can be used to strategically drive small producers out of business all in the name of food safety. A similar story with the meat industry a few years ago. In that industry, USDA overwhelmed small plants with paperwork requirements, most of which had no real connection to safe food making their ability to operate business impossible.
We almost live in an idyllic world up here in Northern Vermont with so many family farms and local foods. As I write this, I think about what would happen if they were all of a sudden GONE. Or if the friends I have that run these farms were raided by people armed with automatic weapons, traumatizing their children, families and animals. Not so idyllic is it? Everyday these small farms are living on the edge of ruin and our government is doing all they can to make that a reality, all in the name of food safety.
Now before I delve into this any deeper, let me ask you, are cigarettes legal? How about alcohol? And what about high fructose corn syrup? Yep. All legal and all studied and shown to major health problems and even death. So how in the world is drinking raw milk or eating raw cheese more of a threat? How is producing and eating foods that have proven over the test of time to be healthy and nutrient dense foods, warrant SWAT-like raids on small family farms when you can walk to your local convenience store and easily get all three of the other above mentioned foods? The government allows our citizens to chose to ingest harmful things, but is taking away our rights to eat foods that are good for us. Does that make any sense? Many of us chose not to consume those products, and those people who fear raw milk products, based on mis-information can also chose not to consume those products. But to allow raids and product seizures thereby not allowing the public to chose…that is at the very heart of our independence.
So if you care about small and local farms, support them. But I ask that you take it a step further. Contact your local senators and voice your concerns. Visit the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund for how and what to say to your senators.
You can also help those family farms who have already had their products seized, their lives in ruin. Even $5 can help these families get the legal aid they need to get back to doing what they do best, farming.
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