From Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm Facebook Page. Preach it Joel!
In case you didn’t know, the sustainable agriculture/local food community is abuzz in recent weeks over proposed Draconian regulations from the 2009 Food Safety Modernization Act. Overseen by President Obama’s appointment, Michael Taylor (longtime Monsanto attorney who shepherded Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) to the world, this food policing project is just now getting flesh on the bones. It’s ugly.
If you haven’t received the action alerts about this, you’re not plugged into the clean food and integrity food movements. The public comment period closes Nov. 15 and literally every single non-industrial food organization is hopping mad about the proposals.
Like all subjective regulations, it’s hard to know what everything actually means. The regulations use “farm” and “facility” interchangeably, which makes all of us farmers wonder if we are no longer farms, but rather perceived as food facilities. Each farm is limited to only 3,000 pastured chickens–is this per year, per property, per business entity? It’s all unclear, but obviously if it’s the most stringent, it would destroy polyface Farm.
The regulations almost prohibit using compost for vegetable production and create a scorched-earth policy toward wildlife that meanders onto farms. The regulations love centralized Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and doesn’t want mixed plant-animal farms. Chemical fertilizers are easy to use; biologically active soil amendments practically impossible. You get the flavor. Did anyone expect anything different from a Monsanto rep?
But that’s not what this post is about. That’s all just context. The crux of my thoughts today revolve around the axiom perpetuated in all these action alerts and info-sheets: “better oversight is needed.” While whipping us into apoplectic frenzy with diatribes about how heinous all this is, the same authors, in the same evangelistic fervor, say “better oversight is needed.” They mean government oversight of food safety; primarily, I assume, industrial food.
Saying “better oversight is needed” while decrying the kind of oversight we’re getting is naive. The most powerful section of the documentary Food Inc, in my opinion, is right at the end where the revolving door of industry-regulators shows the business cards as examples. How do you get “better oversight” when the entire regulatory bureaucracy marches to the beat of the same drummer? While certainly a few lone voices do exist, the food policing agencies as a whole share the same idealogical fraternity–indeed in many cases the same college fraternity–as the industry they’re supposed to regulate. It makes for a cozy–and incredibly prejudicial–family.
The wise reaction to all this is to realize that we are getting the kind of oversight we’re getting because that’s how government regulations operate. They always have and always will. The government agencies kow-tow to the biggest players and the whole structure becomes concessionized toward the status quo rather than a true societal watchdog. The dog bites innovators and rabble-rousers; it licks the biggest
players who can afford to bring it biscuits (wine and cheese dinners).
The problem is not better government oversight. The problem is government oversight, period. The answer is not better government; the answer is eliminating the government’s meddling in food affairs at all. At this stage of the game, with a First Lady who planted an organic garden on the White House lawn, if we can’t get any better recognition of scientific evidence for decentralization, pastured livestock, farm diversification, and small-scale processing I would hope anyone still putting faith in government oversight would begin to question their wisdom.
I have a question for all my friends who share a love of integrity food and healing landscape who still think we need better government oversight of food. Pray tell, just how are you going to change agency climates from evil to good? How do you get everyone from Monsanto to Tyson to Bill Gates to quit populating the government agencies with their lackeys? How are you going to break the good ole boy network between the corn growers alliance, the chemical fertilizer institute, the herbicide alliance and the pharmaceutical industry with the ag colleges and the government agencies? How? If you haven’t been able to do it yet, when? Next year, the next year? Just when is this better oversight going to kick in?
Folks, I beg you, please, please, please quit asking for ANY more government involvement in our food system. You can’t convert a demon. We need an opt out strategy, to preserve a food choice for the natives, before all of us heretics who dare question industrial orthodoxy get rounded up and put on the reservation–if we sign up as friends. Otherwise, it’s Wounded Knee for us. It’s just this kind of naive faith that somehow we can get better oversight from the government that perpetuates and fuels the burgeoning inquisition. Too many people think they can replace the food extortionists with folks who will love compost and pastured chickens.
I have news for you–‘t ain’t gonna happen. Not today. Not tomorrow. We need to quit feeding the idea that we need government oversight in food. It’s given us GMOs, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, irradiation, DDT, and the demonic 1979 food pyramid that embarked our nation on Type II diabetes and an obesity epidemic never seen in any civilization in human history. And these people are watchdogs of food safety? Give me a break.
The way to get safe food and plenty of food choice is to let the players duke it out in the marketplace. I’ll tell my story; Monsanto can tell their story. Right now, it’s a stacked deck. The entire weight of the U.S. government is there to pooh-pooh my story and stamp “approved” on Monsanto’s story, or Tyson or McDonald’s or Merck or Pfizer–pick your devil of the day. Any of them will do.
Only when people are responsible for their food choices, without prejudiced government agents coaxing them, will people finally begin taking the responsibility to educate themselves about food and consequences. When we remove the tyranny, liberty fosters personal accountability. Accountability fosters informational interest. Suddenly people will be as interested in their food as they are in the Kardashians, and wouldn’t that be an exciting societal evolution?
Food business that hurt people will get their pants sued instead of hiding behind the skirts of government food safety agents saying: “I complied with all government licenses.” The license means if you join the fraternity, courts will absolve you of guilt. Get it?
I beg my friends in this movement: please don’t give any more credence to government food meddling. It’s why we are where we are. Here at Polyface, we’re not sure how much more of this “better oversight” we can stand. Look at your children. Look them in the eye, and then tell them you are depending on a bureaucrat to keep them safe. If you can do that, you have way more faith in the industrial food orthodoxy than I do. As for me and my house, we will put our faith in businesses we trust, people we know, farmers who don’t pepper their entrance with “No Trespassing” signs, sheep dip, and haz mat suits.
Among consenting adults, the freedom to acquire the food of our choice is certainly as important as the freedom to worship, shoot, or pray. Our country seems to love rebels wherever they pop up around the world–except right here at home. Here at home, we’re called criminals and we live in terror for our farms and our freedom to feed our children what will liberate them from being enslaved by the pharmaceutical-medical-chemical-industrial orthodoxy. We don’t need “better governmental oversight.” We need freedom.