Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The One-Sized Fits None - HR 875

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund lawyers have reviewed the HR 875 bill extensively, and have created this analysis. Pete Kennedy, Esq., the author, is not an alarmist, but an advocate for the small and medium sustainable farmers who want to sell their products directly to the consumer, and have to navigate already-over-regulated waters to get food on our plates.

One of the problems I see with this bill is they are lumping in the small mom and pop farmers providing food to their neighbors and church, with the big commercial outfits.

The other big problem is putting the regs in the hands of the Feds, is basically putting them in the hands of the big agribusiness lobbies - the same folks that bring us great gourmet foods like Crisco, Rancid Vegetable Oils (replacing stable traditional fats), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Grain-Hormone-Antibiotic Fed Dairy, yummy GMOs and last but not least Cloned Beef and Pork!

HR 875 comes at a time when the trend towards direct-to-consumer sales has started to boom and resurrect small farm-based rural economies. Instead of buying from grocery stores the consumers are now putting their dollars directly in the pocket of the farmer. This creates a VERY stable farm economy and, and a transparent, SAFE food system.

This new "get-to-know-your-farmers" distribution is working, and working very well... and now, here comes HR 875, strapping the small farmer with the VERY same rules as giant agribusinesses that control most of the food in the supermarkets.

There are thousands of families that order their food weekly via the Internet, and farmers deliver directly to their neighborhoods. The rapidly growing market for raw milk is part of the rocket fuel. Many of us buy because it’s fresher, better, tastier. Many of us buy because we like knowing where our food comes from. Even more of us do it to support our small farmers and their families.

Look how the direct to consumer sales affect dairy alone –

The commercial dairy farmers with 300 cows that sell their milk to the bulk milk buyers for pasteurization, are LOSING money on each gallon of milk they sell. These farmers produce milk for about $2/gallon and can only sell it for $1/gallon this year. See the Farm Aid article for more about this. Yet, they continue to have to feed their animals, and every day they dig deeper into debt. The tourniquet they apply to stem the outflow of farm dollars is the "culling" (killing off) of their herds. Many hundreds of thousands of commercial dairy cows are now ground beef.

On the direct-sales side, the farmer with 30 cows receives the whole and premium price for their raw milk (intentionally produced with the idea of raw consumption) for $5 - $13/gallon. This is organic raw milk from humanely cared for and sustainably raised cows on PASTURE. You can imagine the difference this profit makes in the farmer’s life and community. You can also imagine the difference this food makes in our lives! We also have the pleasure of knowing our farmers and their practices. We eat the SAME food they feed their families. There’s no better FOOD SAFETY act that that!

All that being said, they want to regulate these two VERY different farmers the same.

It’s like...
Lumping local micro-breweries in with Bud, Miller and Michelob -
Mom and Pop restaurants with McDonald's -
Little League with the Major League!

They don’t scale the regulations.

The small farmers are hurdled even with the CURRENT regs –

The current regs require small farmers to install $30,000 stainless steel kitchens before they even make $1 from the sale of a pickle! This kills the entrepreneurial spirit!

The current regs in Maryland and Virginia (and many other states) won’t let farmers sell raw milk.

The current regs won’t allow many small farmers to slaughter animals on the farm, requiring the animals to be shipped for MANY hours, in ALL WEATHER, without WATER on the highways to specially USDA inspected slaughterhouses.

The non-scalable regulations have all but closed the small slaughter houses that used to be part of every farming community. Any farmer that won't put their animals through this trauma isn’t allowed to sell their meat to you or to a restaurant or store. And, yet, you see the footage of what goes on in these Federally Inspected Slaughterhouses. Inhumane…but regulated!

“You can’t regulate integrity” – Joel Salatin

The sad thing, is that a million dollar fine to a large food company is just figured in as the cost of doing business.

The same fine would wipe out a small farm. Remember, these farms are ALSO their homes. None of the big agribusiness guys live where the food is made…just go near a CAFO (confined animal facility op)and you’ll smell the reason why.

Where is the bill to support, protect and encourage artisan food producers? Where is the bill to encourage more small farms to get into the mix, and produce transparently raised food for our families?

Million dollar fines and weekly inspections from investigators would stop me cold.

And, there’s more to the bill than that…

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