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