Several years ago, a state legislature in the state of Wyoming began pushing a bill that would allow for the legal sale of farm-fresh produce, milk, eggs, and meat directly from producers to consumers, without government inspection and regulation. Just over a year ago, after seven years of fighting for it, this law passed with the support of the Wyoming Farm Bureau. Similarly, there was a bill passed in Virginia. Opposers of this bill were delighted when many supporters became ill after the bill was passed, laying blame upon the raw milk that was used to celebrate. The milk, however, was found clean, and the real cause was laid appropriately at the proverbial foot of a virus that ran rampant that week. However, this hasn’t stopped the opposition to these bills from trying to blame every bad thing that happens in these two states upon the shoulders of un-inspected farmers and producers.
In 2016 Representative Marc Roberts sponsored a bill similar to the one passed in Wyoming. This would allow the direct legal sale of raw milk, raw chicken, eggs, produce, and home-processed products from the producer to the consumer.
This bill saw a LOT of controversy and a ridiculous amount of political bull—I mean, game-playing. But we’ll get to that in a later post.
Here are some of the arguments, supported and pushed by the Utah Farm Bureau and the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, that we heard throughout the process.
Opposing Claim: Consumers may accidentally purchase these products, unaware of possible danger.
Fact: (Quotes from HB 144)
1 – Sales can only occur “between a producer, or producer’s agent, and an informed end consumer.”
2 – Sales can only occur “at farms, ranches, farmers markets, homes, offices…”
3 – “Food or food products may not be sold to, or used by, a restaurant or commercial establishment.”
Opposing Claim: This bill would open the whole food system to de-regulation.
Fact: (Quotes from HB 144) While the bill will reduce the involvement of the government in the way of regulations and inspections, the end consumer:
1 – “Are to be informed that the product is not certified, licensed, regulated, or inspected by the state.”
2 – Are “the last individual to purchase product.”
3 – Purchase products only “for home consumption.”
4 – Cannot “resell the product.”
5 – Products sold in stores to common consumers will still fall under all state and federal regulation, certification, and inspection requirements.
Opposing Claim: This bill isn’t a food freedom act, it’s a “Food-Safety Freedom Act” (UDAF).
Fact: Large corporations are more dangerous than small producers.
1 – Wyoming and Virginia have both already enacted a food freedom act. There have been no reported food-recalls.
2 – In 2015 alone there were thousands of recalls from large-corporations nation-wide. -FDA Archives.
3 – In the unlikely event of a foodborne illness outbreak caused by food from a local source, the outbreak will be localized and easy to treat and address. (And then the producer will likely go under because of a poor reputation).
4 – Pete Kennedy at the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund provided a letter for a bill going before the Indiana State Legislature stating that nationally there are no recorded cases of foodborne illness from exempted poultry [local uninspected producers running under a federal exemption UDAF doesn’t accept] in the nearly five decades the law has been in place.
One state representative commented that we cannot trust our neighbors to not find themselves short of funds, run out back to slaughter a chicken, and run it across the road to sell it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people who are willing to slaughter a chicken (it’s not as fun or profitable as it sounds) and I don’t know that many consumers who would be willing to buy a random dead chicken that the neighbors just brought over.
However, UDAF and our state senators and representatives are certain that the average consumer cannot be trusted to choose healthy options. Although we were smart enough to elect them to office, we cannot be smart enough to know how to vent our own food sources. Isn’t it comforting to know how much faith they have in us?