Target: US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Goal: Allow consumers to have total freedom over their food choices by recognizing local food sovereignty ordinances and private farm to table transactions
The “farm to table” model of allowing small farmers to sell their products directly to consumers is growing in popularity but is severely restricted by federal and state regulators. Consumers deserve the option to acquire local and natural food through private transactions outside of the industrial food system. Demand recognition for these transactions to protect the rights of farmers and freedom of consumers in making responsible and personalized food choices.
Local farmers throughout the country sell meat and dairy products directly to consumers through private contracts like herd shares and leasing arrangements. Because these transactions fall outside of the regulatory and retail licensing system, farmers face legal action such as injunctions, fines, and even prison sentences from federal and state regulators who claim that unlicensed and uninspected food may carry pathogens like salmonella.
This has resulted in a movement to legitimize private farmer-consumer arrangements. Ten towns in Maine have passed “food sovereignty ordinances” that allow small farmers to sell their products directly to consumers without inspection by state and federal agencies. However, there have been many attempts by regulators to invalidate these ordinances, in spite of their widespread support by local citizens. In one recent case, the State of Maine filed a lawsuit against a farmer for selling food without proper licenses even though the transactions were permitted under the town’s Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance.
This movement is a reaction to what Alternet.org calls “a steady erosion of confidence in the integrity of our industrial food system,” as consumers recognize the inability of regulators to protect them from tainted food. This is demonstrated through frequent product recalls and food sold with undeclared ingredients, making it difficult for regulators to trace contaminants in the supply chain. The Center for Disease Control has issued warnings of the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant pathogens in chickens linked to a spike in urinary tract infections. This lack of transparency and accountability in the industrial food system has been proven by corporate resistance to labeling GMO foods and the prevalence of “ag-gag” laws that punish activists and writers for exposing animal cruelty in slaughterhouses.
The demand for private food purchases has risen among consumers seeking wholesome and humane food choices. They desire a return to old-fashioned methods of raising animals naturally without the use of antibiotics and feeding them grass instead of genetically modified grain. This represents a more holistic definition of safety that extends beyond pathogens to include “food free of pesticides, antibiotic residues, and excessive processing.” As suggested by Local Food Local Rules, a blog that argues for local food rights, local food policy should be in the hands of local producers and consumers, not corporate-influenced government regulatory agencies.
Dear USDA and FDA,
While the USDA clings to the slogan, “Know your farmer, know your food,” it doesn’t recognize it in practice. Federal and state agencies continue to file lawsuits against farmers who participate in private “farm to table” transactions and attempt to invalidate community-supported food sovereignty ordinances. It’s important to remember this trend has grown as a reaction to the failures of the industrial food system to protect consumers from contaminated food or disclose the ugly truth about where our food comes from.
Consumers deserve the right to make responsible and personalized food decisions outside of the industrial food system. Buying products directly from local farmers provides a safer, natural, and more transparent alternative to genetically modified and processed foods. Food sovereignty ordinances should be encouraged and recognized by regulators as valid and protected systems. We urge you to acknowledge private farm to table transactions and allow consumers freedom over their food choices.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Drumguy8800 via Wikimedia Commons