Why are federal agents raiding farms and ranches all over the United States? The federal government must quit infringing on the rights of farmers, ranchers, food distributors and even grocers. Those local producers and distributers are the people who know the best way to operate their businesses. They know what the consumers desire is as well as just how much their food ought to cost. The entire food industry ought to become more decentralized away from federal control.
Police S.W.A.T. raids on raw milk providers and other food producers for unreasonable environmental and health regulations needs to end right away. Environmental law primarily involves limitations on an individual’s use of his or her private property. Restrictions on land use that turn out to be extremely rigid may likely amount to the government “taking” the property. The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution limits the government’s eminent domain.
Suppliers state that government delays in responding to producer inquiries along with other communication problems represent a broken regulatory mechanism at best. The expensive as well as time-consuming hassle of proving these rules or regulations to be illegal falls upon the producer, unfortunately.
The result of non-compliance by these types of producers usually is the loss of business. The costs related to governmental regulation and requirement compliance are increasing while these regulatory non-competitive expenses cannot be passed along to their customers. Farmers and ranchers usually are not the beneficiaries of regulations, yet do end up footing the bills for them. Many agricultural producers cannot just raise the price of their products to handle the growing costs of regulatory compliance.
Regulatory coerced compliance provides unfair, non-scale appropriate burdens on smaller producers. It facilitates inconsistent interpretation and enforcement of demands. Such regulations consist of contradictory and/or ambiguous requirements which may or may not be enforced uniformly and consistently. Moreover, it produces a “grey market” of non-compliant producers and products because it forces producers to pick between compliance or business survival.
There are 12 federal agencies and usually at least an equal number of state agencies who have some jurisdiction over agricultural or ranching activities. Furthermore, each agency may well be made up of many other divisions and/or programs which make rules and regulations. Compliance necessitates a high-level of knowledge of technical vocabulary and agency-created abbreviations and acronyms. The simple truth is that every producer is guilty of non-compliance to some regulation written on some piece of paper somewhere.
Examples of Abuse by Federal Agents
In February of 2012 a judge prohibited Daniel Allgyer from selling his raw milk across state lines. Due to this fact, he had to tell his customers that he would have to close down his Rainbow Acres Farm permanently. A handful of his customers had been buying from him for 6 years. Fans of fresh milk, which they also call raw milk, credit a myriad of health benefits to it. These benefits include better teeth as well as more robust immune systems. Raw milk is particularly popular among parents who want it for their kids.
In 1995, Taung Ming-Lin was a normal farm owner in Kern County, California. When his home was threatened by fire he used a tractor to create a fire break to spare his own home. In doing so, he perturbed the habitat of the Tipton kangaroo rat, an endangered species. Federal agents confiscated his tractor, arrested this man and charged him with destroying the rats’ habitat. After the issue was well-publicized in a variety of media outlets, the federal government dropped its charges against Ming-Lin. He was then permitted to farm his property as long as he obtained additional permits and donated $5,000 toward endangered species protection. Had he been convicted, he would most likely have faced 3 years in jail as well as a $300,000 fine!
In Bruneau Valley, Idaho, 59 farms and ranches were very nearly cut off from their water rights in order to prevent the lowering of the water level where the Bruneau Hot Springs snail is found. There are quite a few who argue that the ESA (Environmental Safety Act) is seriously out of date, given the fact that it was actually put into law over 30 years ago when there had been only 109 plant and animal species listed for protection. There are now 1,263 endangered or threatened species, 249 candidates, and 36 others proposed!
On August 3, 2011, a SWAT-style task force of agents for the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office executed an armed raid on Rawesome Foods, a buying club for natural foods including raw milk. James Stewart, the founder of Rawesome Foods, was tossed in jail and the club’s supply of milk and cheese was demolished or confiscated!
In 1978, Wayne and Jean Hage bought the huge Pine Creek Ranch in Nevada’s arid Nye County. A few months after that, they were visited by agents of the National Park Service who wanted the Hages to sell the ranch to the Park Service for about half of what they had just paid. When the Hages refused to sell, the harassment got started. The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management began sending threatening letters and then citations and fines, falsely accusing these people of trespass and attempting to provoke the Hages into a physical altercation. Some thirty Forest Service riders, armed with semi-automatic firepower and bulletproof vests, descended on Hage’s ranch and took his cattle at gun point!
When one dairyman was asked “How much time is spent each day on regulation compliance matters?”, he replied, “My cows do the production work; I spend my whole day complying with regulatory requirements”.
Farmers and ranchers face all types of regulations and demands, from both governmental and non-governmental agencies. Many regulations have impacts on these producers and production that are both extreme and far-reaching. They add demanding layers of operational restrictions and considerably more workload upon the backs of farmers and ranchers. In addition, in cases where a producer is situated within a municipality, additional separate laws or rules may apply.
For every case that is disputed against the federal government, there are multitudes of other cases that are not. This is mainly due to the limited financial resources and time available to the producers.
The following producer concerns should always be addressed with regard to the regulatory impact of an intended regulation:
1. What will it cost the producer in time and money to implement it?
2. How easy will it be to implement?
3. Is regulatory support readily available during implementation?
4. Is the producer the beneficiary of the regulatory action?
UPDATE: (5/17/2013) – The trial of Vernon Hershberger, another raw milk farmer facing prison time for producing real food.
UPDATE: (2/25/2014) – A family farmer in Michigan has been under attack for almost 3 years from factory farms using their political clout to shut down their competition of small family farms that raise a premium product. Watch the video below.
I wish you the best of “believing” in all of your future endeavors,
ROB – (admin)
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