Jun 15, 2010

Food Freedom

Today my blood is boiling regarding the whole food rights situation. I want to make you aware of a major struggle on the food freedom front in Wisconsin, but first you should know our rights to choose who grows our food and what we want to eat are in danger from goverment over-regulation across the nation including Arkansas. The industrial food industry is a big business which will very happily swallow all of your food dollars regardless of the health consequences to you and your family. If those who run this system can push out our small farmers in the name of "food safety" while continuing to fill our grocery shelves with highly processed disease causing garbage, all the better for them. (Can you tell I'm angry?)

This morning I spoke to Barbara Armstrong who raises superb beefalo, oversees the Conway certified farmers market, and performs many other services to promote our local food movement. Barbara recently met with an aid to Senator Lincoln to discuss the problem burdensome regulations are continuing to create for our small local meat farmers and processors. These are regulations designed to make industrial meat processing safe (good luck with that). They are being applied indiscriminately to small farmers who can’t afford the time, dollars, or effort required to fulfill them. Small scale farming and processing are by their very nature much safer and cleaner than factory scale operations. It doesn't make sense to regulate these operations out of existence if the true concern is food safety.

The policy of forcing small farmers and processors to meet big industry regulations in order to make our food “safe” may cause us to lose the very few small safe processing facilities left in Arkansas. Barbara said the Arkansas politicians she spoke with can’t seem to “hear” the danger these regulations pose to Arkansas farmers and to those of us who believe our small farmers are NOT the problem, but rather the answer to food safety issues.

We are sliding into a state of emergency if farmers, the foundation of society, are systematically eliminated through over-regulation, licenses, raids and economic strangulation. Unless the consumers who care about their food rally around the last remaining farms we will face a crisis beyond imagination. Our food system is a fragile house of cards.—Michael Schmidt, Canadian biodynamic dairyman, ARMi (Alliance for Raw Milk Internaionale) Co-director

Over-regulation, demands for more licenses and farm raids are exactly what is happening in states across the US including Wisconsin where Amish farmer Vernon Hershberger has been the focus of much attention. Hershberger distributes food including raw dairy products to members of a private food club. These members have contracted with Hershberger to provide food for their families. As shareholders they are private owners of the food being distributed.

The following are the details of the situation which I received from the Weston A. Price Foundation. On June 2, DATCP officials, Jacqueline Owens and Cathleen Anderson along with Sauk County Health Department officials and deputies of the County Sheriff descended upon Vernon and Erma Hershberger's dairy farm, Grazin' Acres in Loganville, to execute a "special inspection" warrant. DATCP inspectors taped freezers in the Hershbergers' farm store and placed a hold order on thousands of dollars of food in the store, mostly raw milk and raw milk products. In addition a big glob of blue dye was dumped into the milk tank preventing even the Hershberger's family from consuming it. The officials left papers demanding that the milk be dumped into a field. Under the hold order, the Hershbergers were prohibited from selling or even moving any of the food in the taped freezers. DATCP sent inspectors out to the farm because the Hershbergers had refused to comply with an intrusive request by the agency for documents and information going back over seven years.

The Hershbergers' on-farm store sold products only to members of the private buying club. Vernon told reporters that under the Constitution, he was allowed to enter into private contracts and that DATCP had no jurisdiction over his operation. DATCP has referred the matter to the Sauk County District Attorney.

On June 8, Owens and Anderson returned to the farm without a warrant, attempting to conduct another inspection of the farm store. Vernon refused the request for an inspection and the officials left his premises. Before leaving, they served Vernon a 'Special Order' which could subject him to fines of up to $5,000 per violation if he is not in compliance with Wisconsin food and dairy laws.

On June 10, Owens and Anderson again returned to the farm, this time with a warrant but the store doors were locked; so, again they left without searching the store. There have been no reported cases of injury to anyone from Hershberger’s operation nor have there been any complaints. (You can read more specific details on all of these events here.)

Hershberger is an Amish farmer who believes in non-resistance and praying for one’s enemies, but in this case he has courageously chosen the path of civil disobedience believing that God is leading him to “lay down his life for his friends” – that would be all of us who value our personal rights to chose our own food.

Vernon Hershberger is not cooperating with the officials who have demanded that he stop providing food to those who already own the food, until he gets a license which they will not issue.

The Journal of Natural Food and Healing have listed the following constitutional guarantees that are being ignored by these government officials:

1) the right to own private property
2) the right to privately contract (make an agreement) with individuals
3) the right to learn and decide what foods and health options are best for you and your family
4) the right to do business with those you trust and honor and wish to trade with;
5) the right to contract for one’s food for a future delivery; the right to take delivery; and the right to own a share of a farm/food production operation.

You can find out more details about the Hershbergers and how you can help at the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund and The Journal for Natural Food and Healing.

Food, children's education, healthcare...it seems we have many in our government who believe they should take responsibility for the decisions of our private lives.

Either we are free and embrace responsibility or we are slaves and demand protection. Make your choice. - Michael Schmidt

If Americans don’t stand together at this time in our nation to let our government know that we do not want to be “protected” from small farmers to be left at the mercy of big agriculture, and we don't want to be "protected" from our own private decisions regarding things as basic as what food we eat, we are quickly going to be living in a nation we no longer recognize as the “Land of the Free.”

If you would like to have a better understanding of these issues, I recommend the documentary Food, Inc. It is available as an instant watch on Netflix. If you live in the Little Rock area, I would be happy to loan you a copy. realfoodlisa AT gmail DOT com

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