Using fear as a tactic to gain control over personal food freedom and agriculture, President Barack Obama in 2011 signed into law the Food Safety Modernization Act, claiming that it would prevent the spread of E. coli, Mad Cow disease and the like by empowering the Food and Drug Administration to regulate every facet of a farm’s or food facility’s operations.
It’s not disease that we should fear so much, it’s the government. The act gives the FDA unlimited power and affects farms of all sizes, though not equally. Farms with $25,000 in annual sales are excluded outright from the law; any farm with revenues from $25,001 to $500,000 will face partial exemptions; and any farm above that suffers the full force of the law. It will affect three-quarters of U.S. farms.
Slowly but surely, many aspects of the act have taken effect and are just now affecting farms and their customers. Many more regulations are coming down the pike.
The act requires farms and food producers, large and small, to track the origins of their food, whether they grew it or it was previously distributed. Extensive records must be maintained that show exactly where the fruits and vegetables came from, how they were grown, how they were stored and just who they were sold to.
Based on that, farms would be subject to warrantless searches whereby the FDA would have carte blanche to analyze all of their private records to verify not only appropriate tracking, but allegedly appropriate growing practices, too.
That’s because the FDA thinks that it knows farming better than the farmers do -- the act will allow the agency to regulate how crops and animals are raised and harvested. Those standards and controls have not been finalized (the public comment period ends this month). Be sure that farmers will be forced to abandon practices that have been safely used to feed people for generations.
Scared yet? Consider the act’s police state provision. If the FDA discovers contamination, it is empowered to suppress an outbreak. The FDA would have the ability to quarantine an entire geographic region and prevent the movement of produce in and out of it. If one farm in a given town was shown to provide tainted foods, all other farms in that town would need to cease operations while the government’s investigation takes place. If a shutdown happens during that small and crucial window of time when crops need to be harvested or food producers need to be supplied, the farmers will lose out on their livelihood.
To the farmer, the act amounts to a massive loss of rights --- a sort of Patriot Act for agriculture. It looks at what they do with a fine-toothed comb and demands that they conform to a set of practices laid out by an oppressive federal agency.
To the consumer, the act means higher prices. The new rules and regulations will add to the cost of doing business. Don’t forget, the government has already forced food prices through the roof in recent years thanks to the ill-advised pursuit of ethanol, which caused corn, corn products, and everything that eats corn (chicken, swine, and cattle) to go up in cost.
The act will also limit consumers’ choices. Compliance is made easier for corporate giants (owing to cost, resource, and personnel issues), so many smaller family farms may be forced to sell out to them or limit greatly what the FDA considers “high risk” foodstuff — which include perfectly safe things such as raw milk and organic foods, constant targets of federal ire and military-style raids.
The Food Safety Modernization Act is just another in a long line of attacks on free markets and free people. It’s now the law (even though the federal government has no constitutional jurisdiction over farms and intrastate trade), but, there’s still a chance to stop some of its most dangerous aspects from coming into being. The FDA’s “science-based standards for growing, harvesting, packing, and holding produce on domestic and foreign farms” -- which would define the rules and regulations for all things farming -- are available for review on the FDA’s website and can be commented on until November 15.
Gasport resident Bob Confer also writes for the New American at TheNewAmerican.com. Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer.
This column originally appeared in the 04 November 2013 Greater Niagara Newspapers