I Have Another One

It seems the Senate is about to pass S 510. Maybe. It is about food safety (do you really believe that?) and the regulation of food products that could cause illness from contamination. According to what I consider overblown (for now) rhetoric it will be messing with home gardeners and legacy seed growers and collectors.

"If accepted [S 510] would preclude the public's right to grow, own, trade, transport, share, feed and eat each and every food that nature makes. It will become the most offensive authority against the cultivation, trade and consumption of food and agricultural products of one's choice. It will be unconstitutional and contrary to natural law or, if you like, the will of God." ~Dr. Shiv Chopra, Canada Health whistleblower
Now is that true? I haven't looked. But I doubt it. But suppose it is true. Is it unconstitutional? Of course not. Hemp/cannabis has been banned for a long time on health and safety grounds. Why not everything else? They have decades of precedents on their side.

Well what do you know? The Drug War justification works for ObamaCare and the TSA too. And now the control of plants. There is nothing the Drug War can't do.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 11.23.10 at 06:26 AM


Simon, this all revolves around contamination of produce and fruit. The ag industry itself has been formulating a plan to help insulate against lawsuits. They have already started this outside any government mandates. Trade groups like United Fresh, and big retailers like Kroeger have in place the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) which you can investigate at: http://www.producetraceability.org/

Michigan is a big supplier of produce, hence Dingell's involvement. Also, software suppliers for traceability are headquartered in Michigan. It looks like most of the mom and pop and organic growers concerns in S510 have been taken care of. Sections relating to small growers have been struck from the bill. I'm not saying there couldn't be some very bad things in this, but with the money and lobbyists from the ag industry essentially writing the bill, I doubt if it will adversely affect production.

But, smaller producers above the backyard/farmer's market types, would probably be wise to investigate coops for their own protection.

Without tort law reform, (and as long as we continue to fill congress with layers there never will be any reform) laws like this are inevitable.

Frank   ·  November 23, 2010 9:56 AM

That should read: ...fill congress with lawyers...

Frank   ·  November 23, 2010 9:59 AM

Simon, one example of contamination:
You've seen the plastic bins stacked on the floor in the produce sections of Walmart Super Stores, or Costco, filled with vegetables or fruit. These plastic bins are reuseable. They are supposedly cleaned by steam or at least washed, but they have holes that allow contamination to easily get to the food. So all along the transportation route from field to market, anything can get to the produce. So where does contamination come from, the field, cold storage, truck beds, spray from passing vehicles on roadways, loading docks, supermarket floors, or dirty hands touching the produce at the retail food bin?

Lawyers always point to the big growers since THEY have the money to pay up. That's why they are protecting themselves by setting up a tracing system. And that's why there are going to be laws that lay out best growing methods, so that the farmers can point to complying with those laws as a defense in court.

This is all the result of greedy, immoral, lawyers leaching off the productive part of our economy. It's great conspiracy.

Frank   ·  November 23, 2010 10:34 AM

It's NO great conspiracy.

Frank   ·  November 23, 2010 10:35 AM

"And that's why there are going to be laws that lay out best growing methods, so that the farmers can point to complying with those laws as a defense in court."

Compliance with the law is never a defense in court. Meeting FDA guidelines doesn't bar lawsuits against drug companies, meeting DOT guidelines doesn't bar lawsuits against auto companies, and meeting these guidelines will be no bar to food lawsuits. But then, the big-agriculture lobbyists who wrote it know that. Like all big regulatory endeavors created and run by the big players in an industry, the real aim is to squash the small-time competition.

Bob Smith   ·  November 23, 2010 11:41 AM

" the real aim is to squash the small-time competition"

There may be some truth to that. But the real problem is with government ability to write any laws relating to food safety. The ag industry in California has their eye on import regulations in Europe as a potential huge problem down the road. The are afraid they will be used as a blueprint here. For instance, Europe has draconian regulations relating to pesticide residue. As a commonwealth country, India exports to the UK and other countries. Their field testing is a nightmare, where all samples must be run through government labs and certified before shipment. Yes, they can trace every orange or mango back to the tree it was picked from, the day it was picked, and the entire history from field to market.

Do you remember the asparagas that was contaminated by cholera in Peru a few years ago? That type of thing is what's driving this government intervention. WE shouldn't have to worry about it, but the government may be thinking about purposeful contamination which could be very deadly.
I don't think this law has anything intentionally aimed at backyard or farmer's markets growers. But then, like the health care bill, who knows what some staff member was paid to add something in. Just the nature of our corrupt political system.

Frank   ·  November 23, 2010 2:38 PM

Libertarian Survivalist Jack Spirko has 2 posts on this bill today. He's read the entire thing and has a reasoned response to S510 hysteria (you won't be able to give your neighbor a homegrown tomato, etc). It's a bad bill, yes, but there is an amendment moving along with it that will exempt farms producing http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/

Karen   ·  November 23, 2010 5:36 PM

crap... It will exempt farms producing less than $500,000 in annual revenue.

Karen   ·  November 23, 2010 8:26 PM

Karen, thank you for the Spirko link. The site looks interesting. After reading his posts, I would add the following:
1. From what I saw of the revised bill, a lot of sections have already been struck.
2. The paperwork requirements appear more onerous than they are in reality.
3. The truly small growers will probably not be affected, especially if Sen. Tester's amendment is added.
4. The traceability initiative is a work in progress, and there are already easily available and cheap ways to comply for the smaller farmer.

I have a direct interest in this, since part of my business provides barcode tracking labels to a section of the ag industry. One of the widely used products (not mine) for produce and fruit is on the market now. It's called Harvest Mark. It is a 2D barcode that is generated for an individual grower, and its cost is a half mil per label. You already see it on clamshells of strawberries, watermelons, and a lot of other items. It allows the consumer to access information through a website that will tell them where the fruit was picked & from which field or farm. In Europe they use the same thing, and shoppers can point their Apple phone at the label, and up pops the info.

The big problem for the growers is integrating all this information, and providing a Julian date on each item. The date problem hasn't been solved yet. The software and scanners provided to even the smaller growers are relatively inexpensive, and in many cases pay for themselves by also integrating payroll with the tracing. Since most ag workers, pickers, as well as packing crews, are paid piece wages in addition to a set hourly wage, the farmer needs to know how many of an item each picker has handled. These tracing labels provide that info instantly without having to manually count and tally. It is a huge time saver, and paper saver. It also links every lug or box of produce or fruit to the individual who picked it, or packed it.

The integration of all this information is the big problem that retailers and government have pushed onto the farmers. Let's say you have a pallet of table grapes, packed in 40 boxes, and inside each box there are 18 to 20 bags of grapes. They want each bag to have an individual tracing code with date, packer, and place information included, which must be linked to a master code on each box with the same information, and each pallet must have a pallet label containing all the information. The pallet label is also mandated by Wal-Mart, Costco, Kroeger, Safeway, etc. to be a label with embedded RFID chip that will pick up added information as the pallet leaves cold storage, is placed on a truck, unloaded at a distribution warehouse, and finally delivered to the retail location.
And finally, there is also a UPC included.

The really small growers are outside this loop. It shouldn't affect them.

Frank   ·  November 23, 2010 9:58 PM

"Really small" is right. Half a million in annual revenue (revenue, not profit) is trivial. This is going to kill the small growers. If you're doing billions in annual revenue like some of the big ag congomerates are this won't be a huge cost. It will add to food prices though, not exactly something cash strapped families need right now. Too bad most of those families will be too stupid to blame the real culprits for rising food prices, Congress. If you're a small grower doing 5 million in revenue all the extra labor and hardware needed to do all this tracking will add significant overhead.

Bob Smith   ·  November 24, 2010 12:22 AM

Bob Smith:
I don't know enough about the ag industry to intelligently speak about all the possibilities for increased costs it will put on what you call small growers. But I do know what is going on with some of them already. After the spinach recall in the Salinas Valley, there was almost universal panic. I know several family farm operations were so worried, that they divided up their farms into individual LLC's, dissolving the corporation. This is a logical way to spread risk. The tracing initiative is a response to the lawsuits, and will be in the interest of even smaller growers, unless they relish bankruptcy or worse.

Frank   ·  November 24, 2010 11:02 AM

Bob, the tracing is an attempt to insulate farmers from any type of contamination to their product after it leaves their control. That is where the most likely source will come from is it is done on purpose. Also, right now, if even one small load is contaminated, ALL the product from that grower is suspect, and is rejected by the retailer. This could easily break even large farms. If the source is from a single row, in a single field, then it can be contained with adequate tracing.
These people are not trying to run their competition out of business, but simply protect their own asses.

Frank   ·  November 24, 2010 3:00 PM

"These people are not trying to run their competition out of business, but simply protect their own asses."

Do you know why that's not true? Because if it were true they'd do it spontaneously. They don't need government to tell them how to "protect their own asses". The fact that some growers are are trying to use the force of law to burden their competition as much as they burden themselves says they are in fact trying to run the competition out of business.

Bob Smith   ·  November 24, 2010 7:50 PM

I'm sure I won't convince, but within my own group of customers I doubt that is the case. From a lot of conservations I've had on the tracing issue with these people, THEY are being pushed by the huge big box retailers like Costco, Wal-Mart, and especially Kroeger. The retailers are even more afraid of lawsuits than the growers.
And, while there may be a little reprieve with the House in Republican control, the FDA is not. Just like with health care, liberals look to the example of Europe. No one likes what they see there. So yes, lobbyists from big ag are trying to make the best of regulations they see coming down on ag anyway.

Maybe I've got my head up my ass, but I believe my customers are honest. They've always been, with me anyway. Many of these people are 2nd or 3rd generation immigrant families, and in California that means Armenians, other Slavs, Swedes, and Japanese.
If you want to know who these people are, have a visit with Victor Davis Hanson - he's one of them. :)

Frank   ·  November 24, 2010 10:08 PM

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