Warning: Texas Authorities Threaten Food Liberties, Part 2
- Two easy-to-follow steps that protect your rights and your food. Find out more…
- Join these organizations if food freedom matters to you!
- Discover the “food fight” you already have a stake it.
Dear Living Well Daily Reader,
Last Friday, we brought you a story about how regulators in Austin, Texas, are harassing residents, stripping away their food liberties, and infringing on their rights. If you missed it, be sure to check it out here.
Today, Judith McGeary of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance returns to Living Well Daily to provide you with actionable tips on how to keep aggressive health regulators from interrogating you and how to keep your local food system intact.
Also, Jasmine LeMaster, quality assurance guru from Living Well, joins the conversation and asks a very important question.
So let’s get down to it…
Natalie Moore: So if what happened in Austin happens to our readers, which it totally could, how can they protect themselves, their farmers, and their food supplies from the authorities?
Judith McGeary: First, let’s change the regulations.
Get involved in local and state politics to help change the laws and regulations. This isn’t about political parties, but about being engaged in the process. One of the best places to start is getting to know your elected officials.
For example, we (FARFA) issued an action alert urging people to contact the Austin City Council and their state legislators to express their outrage at what’s happened. Those calls are very effective. They are even more effective coming from someone that the city council member or legislator already knows.
Elected officials are human beings. They respond better to people they know and they have some context for. Going in and meeting with your elected official puts a face to the issues and lends extra weight to what you say when it’s a crisis point.
Secondly, be aware of your rights.
In some states, you have to give your name to an official when they question you. In other states, you don’t. That’s going to be state-specific. But in no state do you have to answer every question somebody asks you just because they work for the government.
There’s a basic question you can ask: “Am I in custody?” And if not, say, “I’d like to leave now.”
If they’re on your property and you don’t want them there, you have the right to ask them if they have a warrant.
Moore: Those are all great suggestions. Has the Farmer-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund been involved in situations like this before?
McGeary: Absolutely. FTCLDF is the leading group nationally helping farmers when something like this comes up. We have a hotline that members can call 24 hours a day if something like this happens, and provide legal representation where necessary.
In this specific case, FTCLDF along with FARFA are working together to provide legal representation for the farmer.
Moore: So supporting FTCLDF and FARFA would also be a step in the right direction?
McGeary: Yes, supporting both organizations is a great step. These organizations give farmers a place to turn for help, and we also help consumers know how to take action effectively to protect their access to the foods they want.
Moore: You said the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance is also working on this as well?
Could you give us a brief description of how those two groups are different?
McGeary: They overlap. While they both do work in multiple arenas, the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance focuses on the political advocacy and working on lobbying for changes to the laws, while the Farm- to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund’s primary focus is legal representation of the farmers and the consumers.
Moore: OK, got it. I now see the vital role these organizations play in protecting our farmers and, furthermore, our food supply.
Jasmine LeMaster: If our readers aren’t interested in raw milk, why is this still important for them to know about?
McGeary: This situation is symptomatic of a very broad issue: who gets to decide what you eat and who you buy from and what’s the government’s role in that?
That question is front and center in the current issue. The exact same regulation that the city of Austin claims the driver violated actually has nothing to do with raw milk. It’s the general “food establishment” regulation that governs anyone selling or distributing food to consumers. The City’s interpretation of that regulation would mean that someone who coordinates a CSA drop point that has eggs is breaking the law. Somebody who coordinates an order of a few hundred pounds of bulk grain and then divides it up at their house for other people to pick up would be breaking the law.
The city is essentially claiming that anyone who transports or handles food other than for their own personal use has to be licensed.
LeMaster: Wow, that’s insane. Does this include foods you’re transporting to a bake sale?
McGeary: There is an explicit exemption for nonprofit. If you were transporting it to a bake sale, this wouldn’t.
LeMaster: OK, gotcha. That makes sense.
McGeary: But there’s no exemption for the growing number of informal cooperative arrangements — people working together to get their food – that are threatened by this approach. These arrangements not only improve food access, they also create community, bring people together, and strengthen social ties.
And when it comes to local food, they’re vital. We have lost infrastructure because of the consolidation of the food system in the hands of a few large corporations. Fifty years ago there were community canning kitchens in every county. There were numerous small independent mom and pop grocery stores, farm stands and roadside stands, and really extensive networks for both producing and distributing food locally. People truly had choices as to what they bought and from whom.
What we have now is a handful of large companies that control the majority of our food system — anywhere from 60 to 90% of each industry, depending on which one you’re looking at. This works very well not only for these huge companies, but also for the government bureaucracies because it’s much easier to regulate a few large players than lots of small-scale players. From a regulator’s perspective, it’s a nuisance to deal with lots of small-scale farmer’s markets or local businesses.
We don’t have infrastructure for local foods. Creating that local food structure poses a hassle for regulatory authorities.
So farmers, artisan producers, and consumers are all trying to figure out ways to create a new local food infrastructure so they have some options beyond the food that’s put out by the industrial system. But that creates problems for the regulators. This crackdown on raw milk in Texas represents regulators placing their convenience and the interests of the industrial food system ahead of individuals’ interests and right. This attitude, as well as the specific regulatory interpretation, is a threat to the entire attempt, for people to have the choice in the foods they buy and how they get it.
LeMaster: Yeah, makes perfect sense.
McGeary: Thank you for that question because it’s important to realize that while lots of people don’t drink raw milk, this is a fight that everyone has a stake in, and we have to fight it together.
For more information about the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance click here.
For more information about The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund click here.
Managing editor, Living Well Daily
Written By Natalie Moore
Natalie Moore is a dedicated health researcher with a passion for finding healthy, natural, and science-based solutions. After a decade of direct healthcare experience in western and natural medicine, she was involved in public health research before joining Living Well Daily.
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