In an era where social authoritarianism, with more laws, paying to have special stickers, and more regulation of food are all the rage, some towns are going the opposite way and passing ordinances exempting farmers from state and federal regulations - if they sell their products directly to consumers.
Illegal? You betcha. The one thing government does not like, and the bigger the government the less they like it, is people defying their laws. That isn't stopping towns in Maine, who seem to know how to encourage "locally grown" in ways that actually will keep small farmers in business.
Joshua's Farm in Maine received a cease-and-desist order from the state because their dairy operation is illegal. They sell 'shares' of a cow to local people, who then get raw milk from the cow. Now, raw milk is dangerous, there is no science debate on that, but I'm not talking about the health risks of doing it - I drank raw milk growing up and if you want to be immune to all kinds of foodborne diseases, hepatitis A, etc., grow up on a farm. However, the state said they had to invest tens of thousands of dollars in a new cooling system, septic system and whatever else a commercial dairy farm needs to have - for one cow that is shared by three people.
The libertarian in me kind of loves that towns are balking at this. I do recognize that there needs to be some basic common-sense requirements to ensure the public's health but too often "it's for the children" (or insert whatever cause you like) has become the unassailable position that bureaucracies use to exact more and more control over choice. There is no real health benefit to me having to strap a giant 7-year-old child into a car seat in California, the number of additional 7-year-old children harmed or dying because they are in a regular seat rather than a child's car seat in an accident is none - it was passed because some pesky bureaucrat felt like they were doing a good thing, and the car set industry used made-up statistics about how many lives might be saved. Poor people now have one more-government mandated thing to spend money on or they are criminals. That's wrong.
Small farmers selling directly to local people are not exactly rich either so it is good someone is standing up for them. Maine is at the forefront of the food sovereignty movement, where a large agriculture state like California is not, for the simple reason that California has been hijacked by social authoritarian progressives who regulate everything and Maine has always had a culture of 'home rule'. The local farmers rebelling against state and federal regulations make a good point; there is nothing worse for sales, when you only sell locally, than getting your customers sick. E. coli and salmonella problems are far more likely to crop up with large organic food corporations than with local farms. The regulations and added costs simply drive small farms out of business.
"We're trying to get more towns to pass the ordinance, because at the state level we're not getting any attention," Douglas Wollmar, a small produce farmer in Blue Hill, Maine told the Associated Press. "The response we got from legislators is it's nice you got five or six towns, but what you need is 50 towns before we'll listen."
Locally grown food, produced by people you know, is far safer than anything you will buy from a Whole Foods or any organic food corporation or supermarket. He's hoping independence can make some inroads into increased federalization when it comes to food.
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