Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
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One simple law to boost small farms

By Eric Reuter | Chert Hollow Farm

There's so much stupidity in our food and agricultural regulatory system right now. Most consumers aren't even aware of the barriers thrown up in the face of independent farmers, or the subsidies and free rides given their larger or foreign competition. But it's so often said that the system can't all be changed, and there's no practical way to help just small farms.

Yes, there is. All we have to do (OK, not all) to fix it is pass one basic law:

Farm to Consumer Free Choice Act
Farmers may offer for sale, and consumers may choose to buy, any farm-raised or -produced food product, whether whole items such as produce and fruit, or processed on-farm such as cheese and meat, without government inspection or regulation, if the following conditions are met:

a) The product being sold has been grown, produced, and processed on the farm by the farmer, with any agricultural ingredients sourced from the farm or from a regulated source. For example, dairy products must be made on the farm using only the farm's own milk, meat must be raised and butchered on the farm, and meat products such as sausage must contain only the farm's own meat. Exceptions may include necessary ingredients such as rennet or sausage casings if from a regulated source. Small-batch processors, such as artisan cheesemakers or sausage-makers, may source their ingredients from regulated sources such as Grade A dairies or inspected meat lockers, though the final product does not have to be inspected if in compliance with other aspects of this act.

b) The product being sold is offered to the final consumer only; no resale or supply to restaurants or grocery stores. Processed and packaged products should carry a label stating "product not inspected by government agencies; not for resale; produced and packed by (farm name here) on (date).

c) The consumer has visited the farm, inspected its premises and methods for themselves, and signed a mutual agreement with the farmer in which the consumer accepts responsibility for their decision to purchase the product outside government regulation, and the farmer accepts responsibility for producing a safe and healthy product.

d) The sale or transfer takes place on the farm, or at a delivery location agreed upon by both parties. No product covered under this agreement shall be offered for direct sale to the general public, as at a farmers market or roadside stand, but shall only be marketed through advertising until a customer has visited and inspected the farm as per (c).

The beauty of this law would be to create consumer freedom where desired, but in no way undercut or affect the integrity or functioning of the overall national/international food system. No product sold under this act would get into the food system, and any problems would be very easily traceable through the consumer reporting the problem. It allows those who want this right to use it, while not affecting those who do not want such things.

Would there problems and violations? Almost certainly. But they could be easily and quickly located and dealt with, and the hazards are still far lower than the gaping holes in our current system. And implementing this would cost the government nothing, while generating new tax-paying businesses and providing employment and opportunity for rural areas.

Something like this would open the door to so many entrepreneurs who may be good at making cheese, but can't afford a commercial dairy facility; or who are good at raising and butchering animals, but can't afford to work with large and/or faraway meat processors. And it would give those people a chance to grow into a business that would end up subject to the standard regulations, and rightfully so. A small artisan homestead cheese-maker could spend a few years building up their skills and customer base, then afford to take the risk of investing in a real commercial facility to keep growing. But they'll likely never do that if their only options are Do Nothing or Do Everything At The Outset.

Feedback please; this seems so obvious to me, I'd like to know what I'm not seeing. Why isn't this a slam dunk?

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