December 2, 2010

Latest Pajamas Media Column (‘Beyond the Nanny State’) Is Up

Filed under: Activism,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:46 am

It’s here.

It will go up here at BizzyBlog on Saturday (link won’t work until then) after the blackout expires.

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Beyond the Nanny State Update: After I submitted the column, the Senate passed what Michelle Malkin accurately calls “the food police bill.”

Here’s an all too sympathetic capsule from the Washington Post:

The Senate on Tuesday approved the biggest overhaul to the nation’s food safety laws since the 1930s. The 73-to-25 vote gives vast new authorities to the Food and Drug Administration, places new responsibilities on farmers and food companies to prevent contamination, and — for the first time – sets safety standards for imported foods, a growing part of the American diet.

The legislation follows a spate of national outbreaks of food poisoning involving products as varied as eggs, peanuts and spinach in which thousands of people were sickened and more than a dozen died.

But, as I noted in the column, with a link to stats, which the WaPo’s Lyndsey Layton never provided in any meaningful form:

You wouldn’t think so from the headlines, but the incidence of foodborne illness is down significantly in almost all major categories in the past decade or so. So why has the Obama administration been pushing to impose regulations which currently only apply to large agribusinesses on even the smallest family farms, creating what Patrick Richardson calls “an army of regulators with TSA-like authority over agriculture” — perhaps even your backyard garden?

“Your backyard garden”? It seems like an extreme interpretation at first blush, but WaPo’s report on how the bill’s deliberations turned out vindicate my excerpt’s assertions:

The bill has also revealed a divide between the burgeoning local-food movement and major agriculture businesses. Small farmers concerned about the cost of new federal regulation were initially opposed to the bill and argued that since most cases of national food-borne illness are caused by large companies, small producers should not be required to meet the same standards.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a farmer, added an amendment before Thanksgiving that would exempt small farmers and those who sell directly to consumers at farmers markets and farm stands.

But the Tester amendment has angered large agriculture groups, which argue that no one should be exempted from producing safe food. The Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association withdrew their support for the bill in light of the Tester amendment.

Note what’s at play here:

  • Big guys vs. little guys — The big guys don’t like the overregulation regime under which they live, but rather than fight it, they move to impose it on the little guys. This not coincidentally raises the little guys’ costs, which will inevitably make them less competitive and drive some of them out of business.
  • Smears — What kind of crap is a statement like “no one should be exempted from producing safe food”? What the big guys are saying is that “no one should be exempted from producing regulated food.” That, friends, means absolutely no one, which would include food co-ops and, yes, even your backyard garden. The Tester amendment probably contained most of the damage this time, but it’s obvious that Big Ag will be back to stick it to the little guys somewhere down the road.
  • Inevitable, heavy-handed enforcement — Expect a lot more of what happened to the Stowers family at the Manna Storehouse in Northeast Ohio two years ago (background here, here, here, and here), complete with SWAT teams and rounding up of children at gunpoint. The latest on the case is here. If the food police bill the Senate passed ever becomes law, the Stowers family can kiss their voluntary exchange rights good-bye once and for all — unless they submit to the bill’s complete regulatory regime.

I do support the bill’s effort to set standards and inspection requirements for imported foods, and challenge anyone to tell me why they would deserve less scrutiny than foods grown here.

But at bottom, it should be obvious that the “food safety” bill is about far more than the nanny state’s interest in safe food. It’s about insinuating the heavy hand of government control as far as possible into yet another corner of everyday life.

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3 Comments

  1. “I do support the bill’s effort to set standards and inspection requirements for imported foods, and challenge anyone to tell me why they would deserve less scrutiny than foods grown here.”

    Here’s why: imported foods, like our domestic foods, are safe. Imposing our already overblown (and also non safety enhancing) and counterproductive regulatory regime on imports will only make food costs higher, which we DON’T need at this point. Of course, we don’t need the whole effing stupid bill actually.

    And why the antagonistic populist lefty sounding diatribe against “Big Ag?” Don’t they have a point? Why should the Big Brother rules only apply to them? The ‘well, they cause the most national food-borne illness’ argument is faulty because a) that’s only because they supply the most food and b) the ‘cases’ of food-borne illness in the past years have been overblown by a regulatory loving MSM and a power hungry government. Our supply is the safest it’s ever been in, media misled perception to the contrary. Small and local farmers have not proved their food is inherently less dangerous by a long shot. You ask why imports are giving less inspection and standards (and how do we know that is actually true to begin with? it could be something made up by the bills sponsors) well why are smaller food producers held to lower standards? The governments garbage rules (both present and future) should either apply to everybody who sells commercially for a living or be scrapped entirely. The latter is what truly needs to happen. And remember, “Big Ag” did not create this bill, our fine legislators did. Why is Big Ag getting the blame? It’s not fair to make the class warfare based claim that they are deliberately trying to hurt the “little guy.”

    P.S. One other thing the WaPo leaves out is that the only reason the local-food “movement” is “burgeoning” (if that is even the case) is because Locavores have fostered and pushed myths such as how large agriculture is responsible for large amounts of “greenhouse emissions” (which it’s not) and such and have worked together to thus push and impose regulations on larger companies to boost their own sales. BTW, the Locavores true aim is to make it impossible to buy food anywhere then locally. Want oranges from Florida? Nope, can’t, that would require non-Floridians to go out of state. Live in Nebraska and want lobster? Nope, can’t, that’s not a “local” food.

    If there is one thing that bothers me about conservatives and the free market, is that too many of them have this notion that only big business betrays the free market and that small businesses are all saintly nice guys who never engage in so-called ‘crony capitalism.” Bullcrap. Small business get together and gang up on big business all the time. But of course, acknowledging the reality that “little guys” sometimes stick it to the “big guys” doesn’t advance the cause of class warfare for the libs or feed the far too common conservative delusion of the “little guy” always being David to the “big guy” Goliath.

    And don’t think for a moment Democrat Tester created his amendment out of the goodness of his heart. No, he did it as yet another Dem payoff to the “Green” lobby, of which many small(er) farmers and all Locavores are very much a part of. Thanks to the Tester Amendment, the saintly “little guys” once again get special treatment, avoid a taste of their own medicine, and put off their chickens coming to roost.

    Comment by zf — December 2, 2010 @ 6:41 pm

  2. Just to clarify, I’m against the bill and am for there being as much exemptions as possible. The Tester Amendment is good, although again, it is basically a payoff and not a result of Tester being a wonderful guy. And it’s better some people escape the Big Brother than everyone being stuck, no matter how unfair it is to those who are stuck. But my point is, you can’t blame bigger agriculture concerns, on principle, for being annoyed that the same supposedly wonderful rules and regulations are only wielded against them and that certain political beneficiaries (the Locavores) are granted exemption. On principle, the rules shouldn’t only apply to some and not others and you can’t disagree with them on that.

    Comment by zf — December 2, 2010 @ 7:34 pm

  3. [...] This column went up at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Thursday. I’m pleased to report that the column has generated a great deal of [...]

    Pingback by BizzyBlog — December 13, 2010 @ 11:44 pm

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