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April 21, 2009

Food Is Made From Yucky Stuff

Quote of the Day: “Being the state means never having to say you’re sorry.” — D.A. Ridgely (Source: Positive Liberty blog, March 23, 2009)

Subject: The Incredible Cost of Utopian Food Safety Plans

Crops grow in dirt. Animals don’t take showers or use toilets. Food is made from yucky stuff.

This means there’s always a risk of contamination. We can reduce this risk, but not eliminate it. Attempts to make everything perfectly safe are Utopian fantasies that carry a high price in increased costs, reduced variety, diminished supply, and . . . increased risk.

The free market already provides you with multiple ways to balance risks and costs. You can choose between . . .

* Organic and non-organic food
* Locally grown food, or food from far away
* Processed or non-processed food
* Natural or genetically engineered food

The politicians want to reduce this variety, and your choices, in favor of their preferred scheme of top-down, one-size-fits-all regulation. But do such monolithic schemes really make us safer? What if the one-size-fits-all scheme gets something wrong, overlooks something, or has unintended consequences? Then everybody suffers, whereas . . .

The choices provided by the free market tend to limit the harm caused by mistakes. It’s like having a diversified portfolio of investments. Sadly, politicians aren’t fond of diversity. They much prefer their own arrogant dreams for re-engineering the world. Now here comes their latest one . . .

Some politicians want to exploit highly publicized food-borne outbreaks to remake American agriculture, from the top down. These outbreaks were generally the result of industrialized food production, but, as with 9-11 and the housing bubble, politicians like to use crises to grab the power to re-do everything. In this case the most infamous proposal is H.R. 875, the Food Safety Modernization Act. This bill would create . . .

* a vast new bureaucracy, the Food Safety Administration (FSA)
* an army of inspectors with the power to seize the papers and effects of farmers without a warrant
* a system to track every morsel of food from the farm to the supermarket, in combination with the National Animal Identification System (NAIS)
* a pile of reports for farmers to file

It also . . .

* defines a regulated “food production facility” to potentially include backyard gardens
* gives FSA bureaucrats wide latitude to define “safety” so as to potentially ban organic farming
* fines violators of FSA regulations up to $1 million per day with no judicial review
* asserts federal jurisdiction even when food doesn’t cross state lines

Another bill, H.R. 759, is less extreme, but it still increases inspections, requires piles of paperwork, and forces farms and restaurants to maintain standardized electronic record-keeping. Both of these bills will . . .

* Drive some farms out of business (further concentrating our food supply in industrial farms)
* Reduce the supply and diversity of your food
* Raise the cost of your food
* Subject our entire food supply to unexpected, unintended, top-down mistakes (Congress’s recent lead regulations are a perfect example of this danger)!

With obvious sarcasm we cry, “All hail one-size-fits-all schemes!”

Neither bill is likely to pass as-is, but you should still be very concerned. House Commerce & Energy Chair Henry Waxman says he intends to pass a “strong food safety bill” soon, and he hints that it will draw from these and other bills.

You can also bet that lobbyists are busy behind the scenes arguing for provisions and exceptions that will benefit them, hurt their competitors, and raise your expenses while doing little to actually improve food safety. Plus, who knows what will be secretly inserted at the last minute right before Congress rushes to pass a bill they haven’t even read.

Please tell Congress to . . .

* Oppose H.R. 875 and H.R. 759
* Oppose the inclusion of their provisions in any other bill
* Oppose additional burdens on family farms

If you’ve used our Educate the Powerful System before, do the following . . .

* Go to the home page
* Log-in using the log-in button at the right of the navigation bar near the top of the page
* Scroll down and click on the link for campaign number 30. Preserve the Freedom to Farm (We recommend you following these steps, but in case you need it, here’s the direct link)
* Scroll down to the form at the bottom of the page and send your message

If you’re sending your very FIRST message to Congress using our system, click on this link, scroll down to the form, fill it out, and send your message.

Do you want more people to join you and take action on this issue and others? Then . . .

Forward this message to your friends and ask them to join Downsize DC by sending their own message to Congress.

Please also Digg this message from our blog.

Thank you for being a part of the growing Downsize DC Army, which yesterday surpassed 24,900 members. 

Jim Babka
President, Inc.

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