This March, food freedom activists scored a major victory with the passage of the "Wyoming Food Freedom Act." This bill legalizes direct-to-consumer food sales and forbids government officials from imposing any "licensure, permitting, certification, inspection, packaging, or labeling" regulations on farmers who sell their products directly to consumers.
Ideally, of course, all food production would be free of government regulation. Food producers who sell unsafe food should be held liable for any harm caused by their products. Of course, those producers would also soon be driven out of business as consumers would avoid buying food from any farmer, store, or restaurant that was known to sell bad food.
Campaign for Liberty supports all legislation advancing food freedom, a cause long championed by Campaign for Liberty Chairman Ron Paul. The food freedom issue most strongly associated with Dr. Paul is legalizing our right to drink raw milk, an issue that has continued to gain support since he left Congress.
Gracy Olmsead at The American Conservative has good article on the Wyoming law, quoting someone Campaign for Liberty members are quite familiar with:
Joel Salatin, in his book Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal, describes the beauty of local food sales—a system in which we could enjoy local baked goods from our neighbor, a steak from a steer “that never stepped onto a trailer to be co-mingled at a slaughterhouse with animals of dubious extraction,” but was rather killed on its home farm “by the farmer who cared for it,” washed down with wine from “the neighbor’s grapes.” It’s a vision of community-based entrepreneurship, a system that would allow start-ups and small artisans to thrive.
Why doesn’t this system exist? “Because everyone is paranoid of the unscrupulous,” Salatin answers. This fear is one we hold in common—traditional conservatism encompasses a healthy appreciation of human fallibility and sin, the tendency to act out of greed rather than out of care—but the way in which we address this fear of the unscrupulous often differs considerably from the liberal position, which strives to address corruption and error via a top-down system. This is the system currently in place—but in practice, regulators and government bureaucrats are just as prone to human error and greed as producers are. The “government-can-fix-it” mentality just leads to crony capitalism, regulations that favors agribusinesses and hurt the small farmer or artisan.
As Salatin puts it, “While may start sincerely, by the time it gets implemented on the ground and has been through the sieve of corporate dinners, it hurts the little guys and helps the big guys.” Eventually, the food deemed “safe” becomes more and more homogenous, in order to prevent any sort of error: “In the name of offering only credentialed safe food, we will only be able to eat irradiated, genetically adulterated, inhumane, taste-enhanced, nutrient-deficient, emulsified, reconstituted pseudo-food from Archer Daniels Midland, ‘supermarket to the world.’”
Salatin’s language is colorful and humorous, but hopefully it doesn’t distract too much from his larger point: federal regulations can’t and won’t fix the unscrupulous. Oftentimes, they just whitewash it. While federal accountability isn’t wrong in and of itself, it’s an expensive and often impractical means of accountability. A more efficient, diverse, and principled system (though more personally-taxing) is the local one, in which consumers can visit, converse with, and personally inspect the farms from which they procure their food. It’s a system policed without government cost, and reinforced by self-interest.
Of course products sold nationally, over great distances, may continue to require a standard of public health, so that shoppers know the process by which produce makes it into their grocery carts was sanitary, responsible, and consistent. But why should the standards required for this sort of long-term travel also be applied to direct farm-to-consumer food sales? It’s not only impractical—it’s expensive, for both consumer and producer. And it’s why Wyoming’s Food Freedom Act makes so much sense.
Tags: raw milk, Food Freedom