“We must travel in the direction of our fear.”

John Berryman

772486007_490bdea3b2_optPhoto courtesy of the treyerice photostream.

A special thanks to Chris and Devica Urwick, of Spring Run Market, for first drawing my attention to this very important issue.

Two onerous legislative house bills, HR 875 and HR 759, are, as we speak, floating about the halls of Congress. Both of these proposed bills contain provisions that are potentially ruinous to small, local farmers; the very same family organizations that supply our Farmer’s Markets and co-ops with fresh, organic, locally-grown produce, dairy and grass-fed meat. The bills’ provisions are so onerous, in fact – so prohibitive – as to effectively render the small farmer unable to viably compete in the open marketplace. Our Freedom of food choice is being threatened, here folks, and we all know who would love nothing better than to see the ultimate demise of the family farm, don’t we? Yep, that’s right – big Agri-Business, and their companion, K Street lobbyists.

Please take a little bit of time out of your day – hell, just skip reading this blog for the requisite time if need be (I feel it’s that important) – to familiarize yourself with the issues surrounding these two pieces of legislation.

Here are a couple of great resources to get you started:

First up, The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA). This organization is

“…dedicated to representing non-corporate agriculture and animal owners, from homesteaders to horse owners to full-time ranchers.  FARFA’s work also serves those who are local foods consumers, people who care about protecting our traditional way of life, and other like-minded individuals.”

Food Safety Bills Currently Before Congress

The above-mentioned FARFA provides a good, concise overview, here, of the five food safety bills have been filed in Congress this year (as of March 16th). Each of the five bills includes “traceability” provisions

“… whether for animals, produce, or both.  It’s a confusing situation, because NAIS is not a food safety program.  The NAIS tracking ends at the slaughterhouse, while most foodborne illnesses are due to contamination that occurs at the slaughterhouse, food processing or handling facilities, or at homes and restaurants.  So NAIS provides little or no relevant information in the event of a foodborne illness outbreak.”

Note that of the five bills listed, HR 875 and HR 759 pose the most immediate threat to the viability of local, organic farming.

Also, Carl Lanore, in a recent episode (#277) of Super Human Radio, hosted an enlightening discussion on the provisions of these bills (specifically HR 875 and HR 759) with Judith McGeary, the Executive Director of FARFA, and Peter Kennedy, Vice President of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Included in this discussion are suggestions for what we can do to most effectively influence both the content and ultimate outcome of these bills.

I urge all of you to become informed on this issue and voice your concerns to your elected representatives. The sanctity of our food supply is at stake, and unless we want to live in a world where our only food options originate from, and are solely controlled by, the Agri-Beasts (Monsanto, ConAgra, et al) and their all-powerful K Street lobbyists, we need to rise up in opposition.  We absolutely must make our voices heard on this subject.  If nothing else, contact the Capitol Switchboard, at 202-224-3121 (you don’t even have to know your Representative’s or Senator’s name, they can find that information for you), and let your opinion be known.

Now go out and make some noise.  You better believe that the Agri-Beasts will be pulling out all the stops to see these bills passed.

In Health,

Keith

3/25/09 edit: Something I neglected to mention in my original post was that you can follow any and all action on these bills (or any bill, for that matter) at Open Congress.  From the main site, you can search for the applicable bill number and retrive all the information you need; updates, action, the bill’s status — anything and everything.  Open Congress is a great site for the civic minded individual.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t know why this didn’t post this morning will try it again….

    I’ve written my Congressmen a number of times about this already. Guess I’m going to have to do it again. DownsizeDC (http://www.downsizedc.org/) has been all over this along with every other piece of sh^&&* legislation the try to pass without anyone knowing about. I highly recommend you check them out. They’re not against democrats/republicans specifically. They’re against politicians in general these days.

    Their website is great. I highly recommend registering with them as they make it really easy to write your Congressmen (or call). They also provide the base message and then give you some points you can add. It makes taking action easier and therefore more likely to be done. The more people that do, maybe we can get some real “change.”

    Here’s the one specifically about NAIS:
    http://www.downsizedc.org/etp/campaigns/46

    I would also ask you to check out the following (especially the first three):
    Read The Bills Act (http://www.downsizedc.org/etp/campaigns/27)
    One Subject At A Time Act (http://www.downsizedc.org/etp/campaigns/83)
    Enumerated Powers Act (http://www.downsizedc.org/etp/campaigns/87)
    Write The Laws Act (http://www.downsizedc.org/etp/campaigns/51)

    • Hey, thanks for that, Joe. I think the spam filter honed-in on the number of links & flagged your post for that reason. Sorry for the delay.

  2. Keith,

    Kudos to you for writing on this issue. I plan a big post on HR 875 soon. Congress is pushing a NAIS-like program under HR 875. I wrote about that here: http://www.fa-rm.org/blog/2009/03/good-news-on-nais-state-laws-and.html

    Interestingly, Mother Earth News thinks HR 875 is not a huge problem. I think this is extremely naive. All the small farmers and restaurant owners I have talked to are very worried. This bill needs to be stopped in its tracks. We can’t allow the government to control our food. In any case, more regulation isn’t even really going to solve the safety problems posed by factory farmed food: these safety problems are inherent in such a consolidated and centralized system. Ultimately consumer demand has to shift. That’s the only way.

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