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Mr. Salatin Goes to Washington

June 17, 2009

in his own words...

"If you just looked inside the USDA, you would find tremendous support for local food," said Senator Mark
Udall to me yesterday, June 17.  I responded:  "I have looked, and it's not a pretty picture . . . " then somebody cut
off my microphone and that was the end.

I think I have reached the nadir of my trust in government.   Some background:  a couple of months ago, I received
an invitation from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to paticipate in the Green Jobs Leadership Summit hosted by the Senate Democratic Caucus in the Russell Senate Office Building.  His invitation read:  "This half-day event will feature discussions focused on creating clean energy jobs and supporting the new green economy.  Because of your company's leadershi8p in the clean energy and green manufacturing industries, Senator Webb [Va. Senator Jim Webb] has nominated you to represent Virginia at the Green Jobs Leadership Summit."  A breakfast reception would begin at 8 a.m.

I received a duplicate invitation directly from Sen. Webb.  Smelling a rat (partisans backslapping and me a member of a voiceless mob) I contacted Sen. Webb's office for clarification and was assured that I might even have five minutes with Vice President Joe Biden, but surely I would have plenty of face time with senators.  Each senator was allowed one nominee, and I was Webb's representative.  That was kind of cool, and with a total potential of 100 people from across the U.S., this sounded like indeed it might be something where I could get my message to some high levels.

So yesterday morning I left the house a little after 3:30 a.m. and traveled to Washington.   I arrived and went immediately to the breakfast, which was chalk milk, ice water, coffee, orange juice, bagels, and hydrogenated pastries.  Breakfast?  Where is the raw milk, local apple juice, bacon, sausage, pastured eggs?  I settled for ice water.

The room was surrounded by slick corporate poster advertisements for for alternative energy manufacturers, supported by a cadre of CEOs and their staffs.  Hardly enough room to move around.  Soon we were told to find our seats and Sen. Debbie Stabenow convened the meeting.  The front table was cordoned off and guarded by security until VP Joe Biden came.  He spoke about the wonderful things the stimulus package was doing, then shook hands with about 8 senators in a reserved section, then was quickly whisked away.  So much for face time.

What followed were two panels, primarily senators, simply giddy over how they were rescuing the country.  The senators would flow in for their 1 minute of clapping praise from the industry audience, then gave 3 minutes of Democratic salvation exuberance, then quickly left for more important matters.  Once each panel finished their preramble (Ha!) monologues, just a few minutes were left for the lucky few who could navigate to the microphone in a nearly unreachable corner to ask questions and make comments to the panel.

Since we were out of time by the time this was allowed, three or more people would give their comments and then
someone from the panel would respond--always about how we needed to do more.  I finally realized that this was all about the Democrats (I'm sure Republicans do it all the time too) convening industry people to become their political cloud to shove through the Democratic agenda.

No face time.  No interaction.  I was just supposed to listen, catch the euphoria bug, and leave elated and thankful that the Democrats were finally in charge.  Of course, I don't think the Republicans would be any better, but the postulating and self aggrandizement was both disgusting and palpable.  Anyway, I finally decided to leave at the end of the second panel. As I walked out, I realized I had navigated to the end of the comment line and since only 6 people were in front of me, I might actually get to say something.  So I waited.

`And they got to me.  Here is the best I remember what I said:

I'm amazed that after half a day of talk about green jobs and energy, I have not heard the word food, the word farm, or the word agriculture.  I represent the local food movement and the pastured livestock movement, and we are tired of being marginalized, criminalized, and demonized by the USDA and this government.  I'm a bioterrorist for letting my chickens run in the pasture.  What good is it to have the freedom to own a gun, assemble, or worship if I can't choose the fuel to feed my internal 3 trillion member community of bacteria to give me the energy to go shoot, pray, or preach?  I propose that we have a Constitutional Amendment that allows every American citizen the right to choose their food.  Government bureaucrats should not come between my mouth and my 3 trillion member internal community."

`Other speakers had waxed on about health care and all sorts of things.  I couldn't have talked more than one minute, when Sen. Udall interrupted with:  "If you just looked inside the USDA, you would find tremendous support for local food." I was the only speaker interrupted, the only one who mentioned food, farming, or agriculture, and the only one who didn't ask for more government money.  And when I responded that I had looked inside and it was not a pretty picutre . . . they cut my microphone off.  Enough of you, Salatin.  We don't want your type around here.

Thus endeth Mr. Salatin going to Washington.  I think I'll write some more books.


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