A food sovereignty safety and inspection policy

Russ at Attempter Blog has written about the corporate-state’s crackdown against small producers in his series on food sovereignty.

For example, in his post, First they came for the raw milk, and I did nothing… he writes (emphasis mine)

The reason for this campaign of persecution, intimidation, and harassment is that the government food agencies are the flunkeys of industrial agriculture. That’s proven just by the complete inverted disparity between two overwhelming ratios. These are: the ratio of corporate-caused food poisoning (over 99%) to that caused by small producers; and the ratio of government enforcement, preventive as well as remedial, of these same toxic industrial producers to its enforcement actions against small producers. The ratio there is just as lopsided but on the opposite side.
So it’s clear that in the eyes of the government, the more dangerous you are, the less you warrant any preventive or punitive action, while the more innocent you are, the more you’re seen as a target. The reason for all this is obvious. Government food policy is in the hands of the same corporate thugs who push the same pro-corporate policies as we see with the banks, the insurance rackets, the weapons rackets, and in every other sector.
He concludes:
  1. The government wants to smash local, sustainable food, especially where this is a business, but not exclusively where it’s a business.
  2. The government targets small producers and distributors. It looks for a pretext for enforcement, and if it can’t find one it trumps one up. Law, science, and professional procedure are all to be freely used, abused, or discarded in this process.
  3. The food bills in Congress would increase the government’s power while imposing extreme hardships on those same small producers and distributors. The Food Tyranny bill is therefore both a direct and indirect police state assault on non-corporate food.
The evidence for these conclusions — already solid — continues to mount.  For example, my family has an apple cider pressing party every year.  We supplement apples from our very small (a few trees) family orchard with apples from local family farmers in Hood River.  One family farm from which we regularly buy apples has always offered fresh raw cider and cider tastings on their farm premises — until last year.  My mom recounts the farmer telling her experience of the government crackdown (paraphrased):
She said they were out doing their cider pressing when some government vehicle rolled up, and some young kid (probably no older than 30-something), flashed a piece of paper at them, and ordered them to cease and desist with all cider pressing activities.   The reason?  Someone may have contracted food poisoning by eating an unwashed apple from the ground of an orchard in Washington State.
The farmer read the order carefully, and responded.  “This only tells us to stop selling our cider.  You can’t stop us from giving cider away to people or doing taste testings.”  The next day, the same agent came back with another cease and desist order covering all cider pressing activities.
The farmer said the only option they would have is to upgrade all their equipment to stainless steel [ed:  as if doing so automatically prevents food poisoning…hah!], an operation that would cost thousands beyond what the farmers could afford.  Never mind that there have been no documented cases of food poisoning tied to their farm in the multiple-decade history of their operation.
In response to this, I wrote the following model Food Safety and Inspection Policy for community-supported businesses to adopt.  I am not a lawyer nor do I contend that such a policy is legal.  It is, however, farm more ethical, legitimate and just than existing food laws and food safety practices and a starting place for developing more coherent food sovereignty-oriented policy and law.  A practical Declaration of sorts.

Food Safety and Inspection Policies

Government (state and federal) discrimination against small food operations appear to be intensifying, with harassment of farmers and producers and threats to their operations from government agents becoming routine. Instead of going after the “big offenders” (who have big legal budgets) regulators in a corrupt and broken system are starting to go after smaller, vulnerable operations regardless of whether they are a problem. Some possible factors in this trend are the lack of food safety experts’ familiarity with community-supported models, the inherent inability to regulate them (since they are customer owned) and the fact that regulation is geared toward accommodating large-scale industrial operations at the expense of small-scale, local operations.

The community-supported business model offers some protection against such discrimination. [Name of Business, henceforth NB] will institute policies that leverage the full extent of those protections:

  1. [NB] maintains and strictly follows procedures to maximize the safety and quality of its operations and products throughout the entirety of the production process.

  2. [NB] may not follow any third party guidelines which impede, diminish or jeopardize the safety and quality of its operations and products.

  3. Open-door policy: Any past, current or future food share-holder may arrange a visit to the facilities for inspection of the facilities and operations therein. Share holders must notify food artisans in advance of the visit if they have appointed a third party representative to operate as their agent during the visit.

  4. All visits must occur under the supervision of the food artisan(s) who are managing the related food shares.

  5. All visits must strictly adhere to the above-mentioned safety and quality protection procedures.

  6. [NB], food artisans and other employees or owners cannot consent to any government inspection of any aspect of the operations relating to shareholders’ past, present or future food shares. Inspection includes, but is not limited to, any visual inspection, search or any other intrusion into the facilities and its operations.

  7. A government worker wishing to inspect any aspect of [NB]’s operations must obtain and present to [NB] the legal, written consent of all current food share-holders of any operation targeted for or affected (directly or indirectly) by inspection. [NB] will provide a list of current shareholders upon request.

  8. A lack of consent to inspection from any current food share-holder — either through absence of consent or denial of consent — is equal to no legal consent for inspection or any other intrusion into the private contractually-bound property or business of past, present or future food share-holders. Food artisans are contractually and ethically bound to deny any inspection until the inspecting party can obtain and present such consent.

  9. A government employee or government agency may not purchase any food shares or represent a current shareholder with the intent or purpose of obtaining facilities access without consent outlined above.  [NB] reserves the right to deny share purchase by or on the behalf of any legal entity.

  10. [NB] and its artisans will participate to the fullest extent possible in its local Community Rights initiatives to work for and implement food sovereignty laws that protect small-scale, local food systems. [NB] will encourage its farmers and food shareholders to do likewise where necessary or appropriate.

  11. [NB] will provide a copy of these policies to all food shareholders before they purchase a food share. An up-to-date copy will be available on the company’s website.

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