With the term “locavore” being the new word of the year, you might think that folks at the US Ag Department could take a hint. But, apparently not as evident in a recent story in The Nation by David E. Gumpert, a columnist with BusinessWeek.com, who writes about health and business, and also tracks food issues at his blog.
His piece is a disturbing look inside the regulations that are used to assault local farmers from selling their food direct to consumers. In essence, the regs that are supposed to protect consumers, Gumpert surmises, seem to be more in effect to protect “corporate interests.”
Chelsea Green authors Sandor Ellix Katz and Linda Faillace know all too well about the corporate protectionism alive and well in federal ag rules, and the local food movements spawning up in response at the grassroots level. Faillace is still battling with the USDA over the seizure of her family sheep years ago, a story she tells in Mad Sheep (now out in paperback), and Katz gives readers a grassroots view of the underground food movements in The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved.
Here’s an excerpt from Gumpert’s article, which is a must read before the holiday season as many of us turn to our neighbors to put the bounty on our tables:
The number of farmers markets over the last five years has increased more than 50 percent, to nearly 4,500 from 2,800, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Since the European idea of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) was adopted by a handful of US farms twenty years ago, enabling consumers to buy shares in the output of local farms, the concept has been adopted by as many as 3,000 small farms across the US. Thousands of consumers are trekking out to dairy farms to purchase suddenly popular unpasteurized milk for its perceived health benefits over the pasteurized stuff, according to the Weston A. Price Foundation, a promoter of raw (unpasteurized) milk consumption. (Retail sales of raw milk are prohibited in most states).
But as the re-emergence of a farm-to-consumer economy draws increasing amounts of cash out of the mass-production factory system, the new movement is bumping up against suddenly energized regulators who claim they want to “protect” us from pathogens and other dangers.
Federal and state agriculture and health authorities say farmers are violating all kinds of regulations to meet fast-growing consumer demand, such as slaughtering their own hogs and cattle instead of using state and federally inspected facilities, and selling unpasteurized dairy products and cider without the proper permits.”