I’ve written numerous times about the absurdity of laws restricting local farmers ability to sell things like meat, dairy, and more. In December 2009 I posted my ideal wording for a “Farm to Consumer Free Choice Act” that would give customers back the right to make their own food choices. It looks like Wyoming is considering something similar:
Wyoming House Bill 54, now under consideration:
The purpose of the Wyoming Food Freedom Act is to allow for traditional community social events involving the sale and consumption of home made foods and to encourage the expansion and accessibility of farmers’ markets, roadside stands, ranch, farm and home based sales and producer to end consumer agricultural sales…
(b) Any producer or processor who is selling his product only at farmers’ markets, roadside stands or by ranch, farm and home based sales
directly to the end consumer is exempt from licensing required by
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, there shall be no licensure, certification or inspection by any state governmental agency or any agency of any political subdivision of the state provided there is only one (1)transaction between the producer, the processor, the producer’s agent or the processor’s agent and the end consumer when the food is for home consumption or the food is prepared for a traditional community social event.
Predictably, this has generated some rather hysterical backlashes, such as this sarcastic column from Bill Marler, an “foodborne illness attorney”. I fully understand any given person’s aversion to purchasing “uninspected” food (though I suggest they learn a little more about the existing inspection system). What I don’t understand is why they think others should be banned from the same decision. If my neighbors choose to buy goat meat from us, that transaction affects no one but us, and if something goes wrong, they’ll know where to turn. Such a law would not put uninspected food on grocery store shelves, it would only open up direct transactions between producer and consumer. Even the dubious argument that this might increase foodborne illness cases that would cost the health care system money doesn’t hold up in context; if that’s a true concern we’d be far better off banning fast food and sodas, which is just silly.
People like Marler might also reflect on the fact that it’s been USDA policy for years to allow farmers to butcher poultry on-farm with no inspection, if the sales are made direct to consumer. Somehow the massive waves of sick consumers from dirty small farms hasn’t managed to break through the biased media’s accounts of widespread food illness in the corporate food world.
So good for Wyoming so far, though the bill is far from law. Apparently it’s been introduced for several years, but this is the farthest it’s gotten. I’d love to see a state adopt this as a test case, allowing willing customers to be their own guinea pigs in a unique test of freedom, and see whether the sky really does start falling.