In 2010 and 2011 the Food and Drug Administration focused on the suppression of unpasteurized milk distribution across state lines. Among the targets of their stings were food clubs and the Amish. The arcane rules against raw milk were enforced — at gunpoint no less — despite the health benefits of the beverage and the freedom that people should have to willingly ingest the foods they want in the manner they’d like.
In 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had a plan to override states’ rights and reclassify farming vehicles and implements as commercial vehicles, requiring hundreds of thousands of farms workers to get commercial drivers licenses (CDLs). Also, the language within those regulations would have reclassified farming as interstate commerce, which would have allowed federal control of all farming activities. Fortunately, a last minute flurry during the public comment period prevented these regulations from becoming the law of the land.
Later that year, the Department of Labor came out with a draft of new labor laws that would have forever harmed agriculture by preventing 14- to 17-year-olds from doing a wide variety of farming tasks, which included working with and around tractors and powered equipment and all acts of animal husbandry. This would have kept thousands of teens unemployed and prevented their exposure to the lifestyle of farming in their formative years. This was stopped by intense public feedback which had been led by this newspaper and columnist.
Those issues represent some of the more significant assaults Washington levied against farming in President Obama’s first term. Many more policies were broached, many more initiated. If what the Obama Administration did or wanted to do to agriculture over the first four years is any indication of what the next four will bring, farmers should take notice. Since the President doesn’t have to worry about reelection and the heads of the various offices know that they likely have just four years of job security left (and want to leave a legacy), farmers may be subject to some significant abuses by the administration.
Farmers — and those who enjoy their produce — are probably asking themselves, “why does this administration hate farming?” The answer comes down to freedom.
This president is no fan of freedom in its truest sense, since it requires a semblance of personal responsibility and personal liberty, and the trials, tribulations, and outcomes that come with it. In his version of freedom people flourish under a watchful government that protects the people not only from one another, but from themselves as well. He prefers they be saddled with laws, regulations and standards so they remain safe, comfortable and uniform.
Among our greatest personal liberties is food freedom; that people may enter into an economic compact with any supplier they’d like in order to acquire the foods they want. We’ve seen an explosion in those circles in recent years (a result of the liberty, organic food, and locavore movements). Now there are 7,684 farmers’ markets nationwide (up from 2,863 just 12 years ago). In New York alone, one out of every five farms engages in direct-to-consumer sale. That activity is a direct threat to the bureaucratic system put in play at the federal level, as roadside stands and food staying within the individual states eliminate not only the middle man, but the watchful eye and guiding hand of Big Brother, too. By sticking their noses into food production and sale at the local level, it’s likely that Obama’s team feels they can gain control of our transactions, our diets, our bodies and our freedoms.
It’s patently obvious that the Obama administration has an inherent disdain for farming, the heart and soul of this country and one of the last true wealth-creators of our economy.
This should worry farmers because we have four more years of a leader who once boasted to Russia’s head of state that, "after my election, I have more flexibility."
More telling and chilling words were never said.
Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column originally ran in the 10 December 2012 Greater Niagara Newspapers