Wednesday, September 1, 2010

No Rest for the Wicked (Which Has a Totally Different Meaning Where I Live :)

I had really intended to just stay away, to take some time away from the world and its issues, to spend time off-line, processing, but I still have work responsibilities, and I work-for-pay using my computer. The temptation to open email or check out the news is just too strong. I wish to thank everyone who expressed their well wishes to me and my family. Your condolences are very much appreciated and your verbal support is invaluable.

Unfortunatly, once I open up the proverbial can of worms it just snowballs. There are so many things in the news that are just so disturbing, especially with regard to what our government is doing. It's almost like they live in some protective bubble and seriously have no inkling as to what is really happening in the world and in our country. Some of the legislation they are proposing is just ... well, it's ridiculous, and unnecessary and really just serves to take attention away from the REAL issues.

One such Bill is the current S. 510 that is before the Senate. The sister Bill in the House of Representatives (HR 2749 – Food Safety Enhancement Act) passed.

What?

And the language in the House Bill was even more ambiguous and restricting than the modified Senate Bill reportedly is.

The bottom line, at least from what information I am being fed, is that the Bill will give regulatory control of our food to a new governing agency that falls under the auspices of Homeland Security.

Homeland Security? Is anyone else concerned about the very large and diverse role this one agency is being given?

For the worst case scenario of what could happen if this Bill is passed, imagine something like the recent raids on food co-ops (or this back in 2008), or the confiscation of the raw milk from some distributors down south happening to you, when the police come to your house to confiscate the tomatoes you grow in buckets on the back porch. When we can't even buy milk (of all things) from a friend who happens to own a cow, because they say it might be bad for us, but they have no qualms about feeding us food that has been proven bad for us time and time again, it's time to fight back.

My home garden and my chickens could be made illegal if this Bill passes, as would my Farmer's Market and most of the small farmers from whom I get the bulk of the food we eat in my house.

In a time when we are facing some serious issues regarding food security, and in a time when so many of us are really working hard to increase our self-sufficiency, to see reports about a Bill like this before Congress, to realize that our government is working toward making us MORE dependent on a very unstable, unreliable and unsustainable food system is disheartening, at best, and terrifying, at worst.

It begs the question - where in the hell do these people live and what in the hell are these people thinking?

At the same moment that the First Lady is installing a small, organic, home garden, we have a Bill being drafted that could, potentially, make her efforts illegal.

In a time when celebrities, like Jamie Oliver, are telling us NOT to eat industrial food products, we have the government attempting to pass a bill that would make it illegal for us to do otherwise.

What's most disturbing about this whole thing is that as I was reading my letter to Big Little Sister and her BFF, Celtic Kitty (who stayed the night last night), Big Little Sister tells me that the scenario my letter was discussing, that is the outlawing of small, home-based gardens, was one of the issues Haddix discusses in her Shadow Children series. How disturbing is it when fiction becomes fact? The society Haddix describes in her book series is one of complete oppression in which the people live in constant fear.

Is that the kind of world we wish to live in?

I strongly identify with the "preppers", in that I think some level of self-preservation and preparedness is very necessary - always - and especially in today's uncertain economic times. All that to say that I read a lot of blogs authored by people who consider themselves preppers. One recent article was a response to another prepper's commentary on a potential scenario in the face of a sudden and complete collapse. The inital article talked a post-collapse scenario in which the community-based governments should confiscate farms, essentially private land, and resources that might become scarce (like gasoline) so that those resources can be rationed (because rationing is always completely fair and equitable ... Ha!).

The question, for me, is where does it stop?

If we allow our government to assume that they have the right to take our stuff (even if "our" stuff is really the 500 acre dairy farm around the corner, which isn't "ours", but also isn't "theirs"), where do we draw the line? When does it cease to be okay to allow the government to have control over our actions?

What's your line?

When they raid the local co-op and confiscate and destroy food because the co-op owners didn't have a license?

When your backyard chickens are confiscated because your neighbors don't think you should have fowl in your yard?

When it becomes illegal NOT to be insured?

When they confiscate your personal property because of "allegations" of misdoing for which there is no proof?

When personal defense in the form of privately owned firearms becomes illegal?

When they make you wear a star ...?

One little thing at a time. The government has become like a trickle of water through a tiny little fissure in a dam. With each new droplet of water, one more of our freedoms is eroded. If we look to history, we'll find some pretty stark examples of what happens when the dam bursts and all of the water comes rushing out at us ... and it always will, unless the breach is repaired.

For me, this is the line in the sand, and if it passes, and if the government tries to tell me that my only option for food is to purchase from Big Ag, my family will be outlaws, guerilla farmers and wild foragers ... and you should probably make sure your dog doesn't wander into my yard, just so you know.

The following is the letter I sent to my Maine Senators regarding the S. 510 - Food Safety Modernization Act. I would encourage you to find out what you can about S. 510, and if what you find it as concerning as what I've found, please write to your Senators and let them know.

Dear Senator:

I have recently been reading information about the proposed S. 510 - Food Safety Modernization Act. The proposed Bill raises a lot of red flags for me, and I urge you to vote against it. I have always thought that our Maine Senators and Congressmen and women were more astute than the Senators and Congressmen from other States, especially when I hear about this sort of regulation. When it comes to silliness like this Bill, I find that my representatives in Congress usually vote in the way that I would – with good judgment and a heavy dose of common sense, and I know that your heart is with Maine and with our, largely, agricultural community.

Like Congresswoman Pingree, who voted against the HR 2749 – Food Safety Enhancement Act, I know that you realize what a farce this Bill is, and that penalizing small farmers by holding them to the same sorts of standards with which large producers should be forced to comply is just ridiculous.

What concerns me is that, from what I’m hearing, this Bill may force smaller producers out of business, which would be a tragedy. Right now, we are facing a nationwide unemployment rate between 9.5% and 20%, depending on whose numbers one believes. If this Bill passes and our small Maine farmers are forced out of work, what are they do for jobs when so many of their neighbors are also out of work? Passing a bill that would, potentially, put thousands of small businesses out of work in a time when we need more jobs is not a wise move.

What baffles me is WHY the writers of this Bill feel it is necessary. We already have an FDA and a USDA, both of which are regulatory agencies responsible for ensuring food safety in this country, and any "new" organization just seems redundant. How about, instead of passing a NEW bill to do what the FDA and the USDA are obviously failing to do, we require that those regulatory agencies that are already in place do their jobs?

I have concerns regarding food safety, but my bigger concern is with food security. We are at a time in history when we are facing resource scarcity and energy depletion. The Russian wheat crop this year was devastated by drought and wildfires. From news reports, they will not be exporting any of their harvest, which will affect worldwide wheat prices. It just doesn’t make sense to put all of our proverbial eggs in one basket, to depend too much on one food source or a handful of large companies, when one parasite, one contamination, one blight could wipe out an entire crop. It doesn’t make sense to make us fully dependent on egg producers like DeCoster, who is notorious for his bad business practices here in Maine, and whose egg farms are implicated in the recent egg recall. He should have been put out of business YEARS ago, and, yet, he has been allowed to not only thrive, but also to expand! S-510 won’t change DeCoster’s practices. He will just pay the fines or buy off the investigators. What S-510 will change is my ability to make a different choice, and that is, the choice not to buy DeCoster eggs at all, but rather to get them from a small, local producer, or better, yet, to raise my own chickens in my suburban backyard.

The problem is that none of the safety regulations or fines have resulted in improving the safety practices of businesses like DeCoster’s. His company is so large and so profitable that he doesn’t care how his birds live (and die, which they do, regularly) or whether or not the eggs are safe to sell to the public. When the most recent egg recall swept the nation, I wasn’t worried. My eggs are fresh and local and I know exactly how my birds live, because they’re in my backyard. S-510 would also threaten my backyard flock. Knowing what I know about the industrial food chain, I can not, morally or ethically, support businesses like the one owned and operated by people like DeCoster. As such, if his eggs were the only ones available, and I could not raise my own chickens, we would not eat eggs.

The same is true for other large producers. I don’t buy spinach from California. I grow my own or I buy it at the Farmer’s Market. I buy local apples and PYO berries, and I buy or pick enough “in season” so that during the winter, we’re eating from what our Maine summer gave us. I fully trust the food in my freezer and in my cupboards, because I know its origins, and I don’t have to worry that somewhere from field to table the food was contaminated. For much of the food that is in my house, I was an active part in the growing, harvesting and/or preserving. I had some control over the process of getting the food to my table. S. 510 would take that control away from me, and not only would my Farmer’s Market cease to exist, but the PYO places would likely close down, and as for my little suburban garden, from what I’m understanding of the language in S-510, it would be illegal. The idea that my government would take away my little garden is just abhorrent, but S. 510 would make it possible.

In a time when we are facing energy depletion that will result in food scarcity, it does not make sense to consider any legislation that would limit food production to only those companies who were large enough to be able to afford to comply with the regulations and profitable enough to not care if their product is safe or not.

Food safety is best achieved at the local level. Small farmers and local food processors are part of the solution to the food supply. Food borne illnesses do not originate with small farmers and producers, but are a Big Ag problem. S. 510 would drive small producers out of business, leaving the industrial food system with the highest ranking of problems of disease and illnesses, to commandeer the marketplace.

I implore you to do as Congresswoman Pingree did with the House version of this Bill and vote against S. 510.

Thank you for your consideration of my request.

Sincerely,

Your Constituent in S. Maine

3 comments:

  1. There absolutely need not be another organization. If the ones we had did their jobs right (or we all made more of an effort to take care of ourselves) there would be no need. I wish our government would see the bigger picture. And kick ass letters like that is how they see it. I'm sure I'll be penning one myself. That particular bill passed my radar.

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  2. Great letter Wendy.

    If those days every come to pass, you will find me along with the rest of my arm baring southern redneck friends sitting on the front porch cleaning our weapons.... and I dare someone to tell use otherwise.

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  3. Thank you for doing your part as a true American! One day at a time. Some nights I can't sleep thinking about our country and how it's slipping away. Keep fighting the good fight!

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