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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Nanny State Done Wrong: Food Safety Act Bad for Small South Dakota Farmers

Unlike Pat Powers, I don't use "nanny state" as a simplistic label to oppose any and all government action. Sometimes government action to protect citizens is perfectly appropriate. Sometimes government action does more harm than good. Principle is all well and good, but you have to look at the outcomes.

But given Dakota War College's frequently expressed loathing for the "nanny state," I find it odd that South Dakota's loudest conservative blog hasn't thrown the nanny state flag at the Food Safety Enhancement Act, H.R. 2749. This bill exemplifies nanny-state legislation, plus it would put small independent producers and farmers markets out of business. Such anti-family-farming legislation should set off all the alarm bells on South Dakota's conservative anti-nanny-state radar... yet DWC hasn't said "boo" in defense of our true small farmers (at least no "boo" that I can recall or Google). DWC is too busy carrying Big Tobacco's water, I guess....

Flying Tomato to the rescue! Even with her liberal/progressive/socialist leanings, this organic gardener can recognize a bad government plan when she sees it. Here's a big chunk of her explanation:

...The bill essentially sets up one-size-fits-all federal oversight for ALL producers, even those selling only direct to consumers in local markets.

The oversight includes FDA standards for growing, sorting, packing, transporting, and holding of raw agricultural products no matter the size of the producer or the locale of the market, registration (with fees) and inspection of premises engaged in processing food no matter their size, and mandatory recordkeeping and electronic filing for all those producing agricultural goods to be eaten by people.

The bill, as it stands, is a big, elaborate, and expensive mound of red tape for producers to wade through, which once again benefits large producers who can afford to pay fees and hire staff while eliminating competition from the little guys (and gals) who don’t have the time or the profit margins to add one more thing to their plates.

The reason for the Food Safety Enhancement Act is obvious–there have been way too many outbreaks of food-borne illness in this country, and they have been vexing to trace with the elaborate supply lines used by large-scale food producers. But the Bill doesn’t discriminate between those who have been responsible for the outbreaks and those who are selling good, clean food to local markets on a small scale.

I reject this level of government oversight, and I’ll bet there are a lot of other small producers who feel the same way. The people who buy food from me know where it comes from, and the USDA and the IRS both know I’m farming, too–I fill out the Census of Ag, and I report my farm earnings on my taxes. I also remit state and local sales tax on what I sell [Rebecca Terk, "Food Safety Bill Will Shutter Farmers Markets," Flying Tomato Farms, 2009.07.01].

Even we greenies can recognize that the best solution for a lot of problems is found at the local level. Buy your food locally, from people you know, grown on land you live on and water you drink every day, and you don't need the FDA or USDA to guarantee that your food is safe. It's only when your food comes from giant, faraway corporations who (a) don't you from Adam or Eve and (b) don't give a good gosh darn about anything but maximum profit that you need some government protection to check that avaricious corporate power.

Flying Tomato is right: it's time to get on the horn to Congress and tell them to axe the Food Safety Enhancement Act.


  1. Is that 2 of 3 posts today that invoke my name?

  2. WHy yes it is, Pat! Consider yourself loved. :-*

  3. What's next? Will they come into your garden and try to regulate your home-grown veggies, Cory? Will they try to tax the value of home-grown broccoli as income? Will they try to tax the human intestinal methane that the broccoli produces as part of an enhanced cap-and-trade bill? Will they give you a tax break if you go on the most extreme version of the Atkins diet and stop generating intestinal methane altogether?

    Some of these power-mad propeller-heads need to get a life. (After reading this wee-hour rant, some of your readers will say that I'd better do the same. Touchè in advance.)

  4. Enhanced cap-and-trade: actually, Stan, allowing individuals to buy into the carbon-credit market might not be such a bad idea. That would actually increase our freedom to participate in the free market, unlike the food safety act mentioned above, which would shut down small operators.


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