Farmageddon film in Columbia this weekend

This Saturday, October 1, the Citizen Jane Film Festival in Columbia will be showing a film we’ve been eagerly awaiting. Farmageddon is a documentary covering the increasing intrusiveness of government regulation in the small, direct-to-consumer farm world. This is an issue we’ve been writing about for years, both from our own experiences and those we’ve been told of and read about. I don’t know whether a film can change anything, but we’re interested to see it. One review sums the concept up nicely:

Farmageddon explains that there are “two competing food systems” in the US — Big Ag and Small Farms — and the shows how the Federal laws created to help large corporate businesses now are being used to harass and destroy the healthy competition from small sustainable farmers.

Under the banner of “food safety,” burdensome new Federal fees and regulations are being instituted that will drive many small food producers out of business. Proposed laws would give USDA expanded powers to conduct raids on small farms. In chilling detail, Farmageddon documents repeated instances of government agencies resorting to surveillance, intimidation, search warrants, criminal investigations of innocent farmers, confiscations, destruction of property, media distortions and outright lies.

This is a difficult issue, because it challenges many of the boundaries in our political system. Small farms and local foods tend to be supported by liberal-leaning citizens, who also tend to believe in government regulation and intervention as a force for good, such that stories like these are jarring. On the other hand, most advocacy for deregulation and smaller government comes from corporate Republicans, who don’t know (or care) that people like us exist, and still view farming as something that government should be heavily involved, through subsidies, protectionist tariffts, price supports, and lobbying influence from Big Ag. You won’t find many small-government Republicans willing to grant farmers the right to sell raw milk or butcher meat on their farm, and you won’t find many Democrats willing to pull back from food safety and other regulations to grant more personal responsibility to citizens, even if it benefits small farmers and personal health.

In another quote from the review above,

As D. Gary Cox, General Counsel of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund tells Canty: “Consumers have a fundamental, inalienable right, to produce and consume food of their own choice. And a consumer has a fundamental right to enter into a one-on-one contract with a farmer or even an agricultural producer to obtain the food that the consumer wants.”

But that’s something that runs against the grain of established wisdom and policy from both our main party platforms. There is great potential for stimulating discourse here, and I hope many people who are at all interested in food and farming will attend. There will be a panel discussion after the film, in which I have been invited to participate. Should be an interesting time, and I hope many people come out to take part. Here’s the official brochure from the festival:

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