Stop Criminalizing the Family Farm

OpEd (1/9/12)

By: John Kinsman, President of Family Farm Defenders

On Wed. Jan. 11th dairy farmer, Vernon Herschberger must appear before
a county judge in Baraboo, WI – his crime, providing unpasteurized
dairy products from his small herd of about twenty pastured cows to
members of his own buying club. Half way across the continent in ME,
Daniel Brown, another family farmer with a small livestock herd was
notified on Nov. 8th that he was being sued by the state for selling
food and milk without a license. At the time he was milking one
Jersey cow.

In Valencio County, NM, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce was forced to
cancel its popular Matanza Festival set for Jan. 28th under pressure
from the USDA which said the centuries old tradition of processing and
serving pigs on site could no longer be done outside of a federally
certified slaughter facility. Last July in Oak Park, MI bureaucrats
threatened Julie Bass with up to three months in jail for daring to
grow vegetables in her own front yard. In Sept. Adam Guerroro, was
ordered to remove his kitchen garden because it was deemed a “public
nuisance” by Memphis, TN officials. Apparently, Michelle Obama’s
victory garden at the White House falls under a different jurisdiction.

This government crackdown on family farmers is absurd given the
current sordid state of our food/farm system and the urgent need to
relocalize agriculture for the sake of our health, as well as that of
the planet. Study after study has shown that the most dangerous food
is usually that which has endured the most processing and traveled the
furthest.

“With millions of Americans contracting food borne illnesses each
year, the USDA is committed to supporting research that improves the
safety of our nation’s food system,” – this was the comment of USDA
Deputy Secretary, Kathleen Merrigan, in a Dec. 15th, 2011 article in
Agriview. In the same issue, it was also revealed that U.S. meat and
milk exports had failed to pass the European Union’s standard for drug
residues. Deborah Cera, leader of the drug compliance team at the
FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, admitted there were many
violations involving scores of drugs in U.S. livestock. In a Nov.
17th 2011 article in the Wisconsin State Farmer, Kim Brown-Pokorny of
the WI Veterinary Medical Association, warned that Wisconsin was the
worst violator nationwide in terms of illegal drug residues in the
meat of culled dairy cows. Yet, there was no mention in either
article of prosecuting or penalizing these drug users or even
informing U.S. consumers of this obvious food safety threat.

On Wed. Jan. 4th 2012 the FDA announced it would finally ban the use
of cephalosporins in livestock by April. Of course, this is but one
small group of antibiotics representing less than .00032% of the 29
million pounds fed to livestock each year. Doctors use barely 20% of
antibiotics in the U.S. to treat human disease – the other 80% are
used on livestock to make them grow faster, and this reckless
application is driving the evolution of antibiotic resistant pathogens
that now plague our hospitals.

Meanwhile, the USDA, FDA, and various state agricultural agencies are
squandering millions in scarce taxpayer dollars to criminalize small
family farmers who are at the forefront of providing healthy
nutritious fresh food to their communities. For instance, according
to an Aug. 25th, 2011 Natural News story, the WI Dept of Agriculture
and Consumer Protection (DATCP) receives up to $80,000 a month from
the FDA to wage its current crackdown on raw milk. The FDA even flew
several of its officials out to Wisconsin to join DATCP colleagues for
surveillance operations of local farmers’ markets. This taxpayer
subsidized harassment is reminiscent of the discredited National
Animal Identification System (NAIS) which was also fueled by millions
in USDA dollars funneled to DATCP for the unapproved registration and
“identity theft” of family farmers simply to meet compliance quotas.

It is time citizens told elected officials and the public servants
within government agencies whose supposed mission is to safeguard our
nation’s food supply that enough is enough. Producing and consuming
fresh local food is not a crime. In fact, every community should have
the right to determine what they grow, raise, and eat – this is the
underlying principle behind food sovereignty, first elaborated in 1996
by La Via Campesina, the largest umbrella organization for small
family farmers in the world.

In March 2011 the citizens of Sedgwick ME, passed the first Local Food
and Community Self-Governance Ordinance. The ordinance states in part
that “producers and processors of local foods are exempt from
licensure and inspection when the producer is selling directly to a
consumer intending to use the product for home consumption, or if the
foods are sold at a community social event. Citizens have the right to
produce, process, purchase and consume local foods of their choosing,
and it shall be unlawful for any law or regulation adopted by the
state or federal government to interfere with these rights.” Since
then similar local food ordinances have been adopted by other towns in
ME, CA, VT, and MA.

If people in Wisconsin want to enjoy access to fresh local food from
family farmers in the future they may need to pass similar ordinances
here. Otherwise, corrupt government under the sway of corporate
agribusiness will make sure they have no choice at all.

Poster on ComFood listserv by
John E. Peck
Executive Director
Family Farm Defenders,
P.O. Box 1772, Madison, WI 53701
tel./fax. 608-260-0900
http://www.familyfarmdefenders.org

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