Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Food and Farm Freedom

Several things have popped up on the radar today and most have something to do with relocalization of food. I am surprised that our local champions of farming and good local foods have not been shouting this from the rooftops. On Monday, the 16th of May there will be a rally in Washington, DC for Food and Farm Freedom.

You say to me, Sweeper, we have our farms and our Farmers Markets and they all are growing. But there is also a growing movement within the FDA to gain control of all that. Take this from Natural News.

The freedom to grow, sell, and buy clean food is under serious attack. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made it clear that the agency is not a friend of food freedom and that it is willing to do whatever it takes to go after those involved in the "Slow Food" movement in order to protect corporate interests.

Corporations have noticed that the organic foods movement is making big strides and gaining “market share”. Why else would the mega-foods companies use their considerable clout to lobby the FDA to change the rules for organic products. I will assure you that these changes will not strengthen the rules for anybody. The new rules are noticeably weaker than the European standards and make it so that the factory farms of America can sell you the same old schlock, but labeled as “organic”. An organic label for which they can charge more in the market place.

At the same time, they(the FDA) are starting to ramp up their attacks on small farmers who are finding “niche” markets providing what the big companies don't want to be bothered with. Last summer, they raided the farm of Dan Allgyer, an Amish farmer in Pennsylvania, whom the agency accused of illegally selling raw milk. Raw milk is legal in Pennsylvania. That did not matter to the FDA agents and other law enforcement officers, they raided anyway. They confiscated (that is stole)pictures and other material while threatening “regulatory action” if the situation was not “resolved”

This is a similar tactic used on the farmer that has put together the cowshare program to which I belong. It is documented that they lay in wait for a weekly delivery of milk to the share participants and accosted both the farmer and the owners. The stress was so great that it brought on reactions similar to PTSD and recovery time took months. Lately a simple “farm inspection” has initiated another round from which we are just now getting back to normal. The bottom line is that the FDA is not out to help the general public consumer or the small farmer (the ones who built this country), they are out to protect those who fund their work with lobbyist dollars – big business, the mega farm agri-business corporations.

The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) has actually filed suit against the FDA on behalf of raw milk. The FDA has responded to the suit with statements like “There is no absolute right to consume or feed children any particular food” and, amazingly, “There is no generalized right to bodily and physical health”. Do the rights to eat food come from the FDA or are they in place to protect our rights to eat healthy food?

It is for these reasons that food advocates are banding together to put on the Rally for Food and Farm Freedom at Upper Senate Park on May 16 to push for justice. It would be nice if some of the locals would have a rally here in Lexington, but I have not heard of one. I am beginning to think that the high-tech creative class jobs and the folks that do them, do not care that the FDA is not on their side. Is the Fayette Alliance aware of this rally? Can they pull something together on short notice? How about the various farmers markets? Or the Good Foods Co-op? Is somebody doing something?

Knox Van Nagell responded to a comment of mine (on ProgressLex) the other day with: “Through matching Federal, State, and local funds, the PDR program “purchases” the development “right” from local farmers, and holds this right in perpetuity…resulting in conserved farms that will continue their agricultural operations for the future. “ It is my hope that these “agricultural operations” will be of the small local farmer rather than the agri-business type.

There is nothing about any of this in the local press.


Alison said...

Have you contacted the people at Seedleaf? http://www.seedleaf.org/

Alison said...

Also, this sounds like something Tom Eblen would be interested in writing about...

Streetsweeper said...

Alison, i see some of the folks at Seedleaf as an elitist group serving food to the lesser privileged from within the system rather than trying to get the system back under the common people's control. I also don't think that duplicating blog posts(either his or mine)will do more than what I have done.

Beccaself said...

Mr. Streetsweeper, I'm saddened and honestly a bit surprised to hear you think that folks at Seedleaf (certainly not the organization itself) are part of "an elitist group serving food to the lesser privileged from within the system rather than trying to get the system back under the common people's control."

As the Education Director of Seedleaf, I work hard, as we say to grow gardeners and empower people with hands on expertise to grow, cook, share and compost their food. We see this as an important way, though certainly not the only way, to help nourish a community.

As we have EXTREMELY limited funding and man hours available, we have not expanded our mission to include policy work as we think there are some excellent organizations, such as CFA, who are focused more directly on policy changes.

I very much enjoyed reading your informative article as I was in fact not aware of the impending FDA regulation changes. However, I firmly believe that my best impact can be made in helping communities in Lexington, particularly the youth, learn more about their food and feel comfortable to grow and cook it themselves.

I am sorry to hear that you feel we are not doing enough, and I would welcome your help in this effort.

Streetsweeper said...

Becca, I did not mean to anger you or your group, but you and other small(yet growing)movements are just the types of organizations which need to be aware of the coming regulations and the efforts of the FDA. Your whole mission appears to be expanding the reach of "real" food and getting the "whole" food experience which I feel the FDA is working hard to leave to large agri-business and that is NOT in our best interest.

I hope that I can assist you in future and that we can blunt the efforts of FDA with real food information.

Beccaself said...

I agree, Mr. Streetsweeper, that we have a responsibly to stay on top of this sort of potential regulation changes, but alas, as hard as it is for me to admit, we can't be everything to everyone. With two people working full time to maintain 10 gardens and offer weekly programming with numerous groups, I wonder how we can best stay abreast of the important topics and still get the hands on interactions that we need.

Please know I responded only as myself, not as the organization of Seedleaf, and I was not angry so much as taken aback. "Elitism" is something which can in fact plague the local food movement and all the more reason why I think we have to work so diligently to bring education and awareness to folks who are truly living in food deserts, unaware of their dwindling food rights. There are so many fronts to fight in this battle, but for inner city folks it can be a challenge to help them even find affordable, accessible fresh food to cook for dinner, let alone convince them that policies at the national level concerning farm policies are something they should be concerned about.

We welcome your diligent efforts as well, as there is hardly a shortage of those needing more information on their food's origins.