Why I Support the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
I’ll never forget the morning, about twenty years ago, when a knock at the front door brought me face-to-face with a man who announced he was from the Virginia Meat and Poultry Inspection Division and he had just confiscated all of our fall-butchered beef at the local abattoir. He held up his big bronze badge, just like all the police do on TV cop shows, and said he was investigating us for selling illegal meat.
My knees went weak. My mouth went dry. My heart pounded and the color drained from my face.
My farm, my livelihood, my family’s future, my customer’s expectations — everything whirled in my head at once. Fines, prison time, media headlines like “Local Alternative Farmer Arrested for Selling Illegal Meat” — the ramifications cascaded through my head as time stood still for a few seconds.
Anyone who cavalierly advocates for more food police has no idea what small farmers face, daily, just trying to comply with vague, subjective, capricious, and malicious mountains of food regulations.
It is identical to the fear that parents who chose a less traveled educational path in the 1970’s faced when truancy officers confiscated their home-schooled children for not being in government-approved schools. As one of those parents, I can assure anyone that the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) purchased confidence and helped balance the scales of injustice to allow an innovative educational climate to incubate, germinate, and proliferate.
Today, food is the defining cultural flashpoint for individual liberty and choice.
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund now gives all of us — farmers and eaters — a finger in the dyke to hold back the tsunami of government harassment toward traditionally raised, artisan processed and directly distributed food. It is bringing balance to the injustice and helping all of us who believe the ultimate individual liberty is not religion, press, or gun ownership, but rather the autonomy to feed our three trillion-member community of internal bacteria a diet consistent with their history and creation.
Personal food choice is the freedom that trumps all others, and I hope the FTCLDF grows at least as big and powerful as the National Rifle Association in membership and strength, defending the most basic right of all: the freedom to choose the food we eat.
Please join me in supporting the Fund and celebrating small, and growing, diversified family farms. I hope to see you at the Benefactor Appreciation Event on September 11th at Polyface.
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How Your Donations
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) does more than simply litigate cases involving raw milk. For example, the Fund has assisted nationally recognized farmer, Joel Salatin of Polyface farm, in his struggles against the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). In early 2008, Joel's chicken was being offered at a local restaurant and the restaurant marketed the chicken as "beyond organic." The USDA's NOP sent a warning letter to Joel stating that the use of the term "organic" was regulated and that because Joel's farm was not "certified organic" he could not advertise his chickens as being "beyond organic." Joel solicited the assistance of FTCLDF who wrote the NOP a letter on Joel's behalf (read Feb. 27, 2008 letter).
In its letter, the Fund set straight NOP's misunderstanding. To begin, the Fund clarified that it was not Joel or his farm that hung the sign at the restaurant. Also, the Fund made clear that even though Joel used the term "beyond organic" on his website, such use was not prohibited by the NOP. The Fund explained that "certified organic" cannot be used on a product unless the producer was certified by an accredited certifying agent, and that the "certified organic" prohibition did not apply to marketing or advertising. Finally, the Fund advised that if the NOP wished for Joel to remove "beyond organic" from his website he would be glad to do so, yet he would also explain in his own words how his agricultural processes do indeed exceed the certified organic standards.
The only response the Fund received to its letter was basically, "we'll get back to you" (read Mar. 4, 2008 letter). The NOP has still not presented any other response to the Fund's letter. The FTCLDF considers this matter as closed.