As usual, the government has the right idea, but the WRONG implementation. No one would argue the importance of food safety. But in this legislation is written the language to put all Farmer's Markets under monthly inspection and mountains of paperwork, and put ALL small farms that sell anything food or animal under the random and constant scrutiny of the Federal Government. Talk about record keeping....!
We have to fight ignorance with facts. The fact that small, organic farmers are helping preserve and secure the food system. The fact that small, organic farms support both the community and the farmers themselves. The fact that hobby farms support diversity of species, heirloom and heritage varieties, and traditional methods. The fact that family farms would never poison the food system - the same food system they eat from. The fact that small farms are healthy and sustainable agriculture.
But we also need another "fact" - we need a measurement. A definition. You can't seek relief from the government and its regulation unless you can tell them exactly what you need. How do we define "small/ (organic) family/ hobby/homestead farm"?
What definition do we use? Is it acres planted? Is it the amount of food produced? Is it the number of animals raised? Slaughtered? Sold?
I've talked to folks who stay below the organic certification radar by producing less than $10,000 of sales. I've talked to legislators that want to consider anyone raising 10 or fewer pigs and cows as "exempt" from slaughter regulations designed to monitor the big guys. I've heard of insurance companies dropping policies if the owners sell so much as one dozen eggs. I know farmers that strive to stay completely "off the grid" personally, but support themselves through barter and cash sales. 70% of all small farms can't support themselves completely and rely on a second income source.
So, how do we define ourselves? How do we identify the threshold at which government record keeping and inspection keeps the food supply safe yet does not drown the small farmer? I'd love to know what you think. But more importantly, let your Representatives know.
HR 875 needs more work. And I'm not the only one who thinks so...