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Feast on the Hill

Way to Policymakers’ Hearts Through Their Stomachs?

Linda Voss
Washington, D.C. Correspondent

Article from Lancaster Farming

WASHINGTON — Hoping to get to legislators’ hearts through their stomachs, food growers descended on Capitol Hill to offer lawmakers a feast of local foods.

Host Joel Salatin opened the event with, “Let’s celebrate what’s good and sacred and noble about food,” and invited people to dig in. Everyone pitched in to serve up a gourmet feast in the Senate’s Russell Office Building. While Michael Fizdale from EcoSystem Farm on the Potomac shucked Maryland oysters, Patricia McDaniel, a volunteer from Grass Fed on the Hill, served locally grown, grass-fed meat.

The Local Foods Feast was sponsored by the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (NICFA), a group that is fighting against implementation of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and other proposed regulations.

Food growers, producers, and preparers from Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania gathered to put a local face on the protest against the proposed Food Safety Modernization Act, which they perceive as unfairly burdening small, independent farms.

Dairy server Susan Blasko characterized herself as a “consumer” who was exercising food choices that she had come to after a diagnosis of breast cancer.

Amidst the hubbub of voices and the occasional baby’s cry, Salatin’s welcomed the group for fellowship and encouragement “when the natives get together.”

His Polyface Farm was featured in Michael Pollan’s best seller, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” Neighborliness was one of the points of the gathering.
“It’s about relations and connectedness,” Salatin said.

Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, called for a transformation of the food industry. She characterized small farms as dynamic producers and one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. That’s a sector she wanted to encourage. She was there to “cultivate farmers” and “fight for our right to healthy food.” She predicted independent farms would serve as the repositories for health with the collapse of the industrialized food production sector. Other voices included an Amishman who said he was representing the private group Communities Alliance for Responsible Eco-Farming (CARE). He stated flatly that NAIS was against Amish religious beliefs and that because Amish don’t have computers, they would have no way to comply.

Representative Tom Perriello, a Democrat whose district includes a central chunk of Virginia from Charlottesville to the southern border of the state, praised the participants as “hard-working advocates, holding our feet to the fire, as you should.” For him the country was never going to “deal with health care costs without thinking about our system of food production … as well as carbon footprint.”

The purported purpose of the Food Safety Modernization Act is to monitor and manage potential disease outbreaks or contamination in food sources.

“The pathogenicity in the (food) system is not from small farms,” Salatin said.

But, according to Salatin, being able to track animals to their source and potential contacts with diseased animals would add a credible certification of lack of disease that would help export markets for large producers.

To those present, the feeling was one of resentment — that small farmers would be funding a system that would benefit large producers whose methods, in their opinion, caused the problem in the first place.

 

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