Monday, July 27, 2009


It's time to raise a hue and cry on this one, on its way through congress at the moment. This bill could be a potentially devastating blow to any progressive agricultural project, and especially would impact Hawaii. Take the time to do some research on the intent and the likely consequences of this legislation. Read it for yourself.

I don't like to offer my opinions on such things, as I believe people should read such material for themselves, but few seem willing to do so. In a nut shell, at the moment, these are the ramifications of this bill as I see them.

1) Every "farm" in the country must be federally licensed and registered. A 500 dollar annual fee.

2) Every "farm" in the country is now open to federal inspection at any moment in time.

3) Every "farm" must provide in essence a detailed "MSDS" on every farm product. If you grow a green bean, you'll need to register with the federal government what kind of green bean it is, where the seeds came from, the process by which it was grown, and any and all soil amendments, or fertilizers, or mulches, or pesticides, or whatevers where used in the process. 10000 dollar fine for each omission. This includes home brewed mixtures of garlic juice and tobacco or elsewise.

4) Of course, all of those fertilizers, or mulches, or carts of horseshit you use to grow those green beans will require producer "MSDS" sheets as well, as to what the mulch is made of, or what the horses ate, or where it all came from.

The strict interpretation of these provisions are onerrous in the extreme to any small farmer, and the fines so threatening for small operations that surely the bill will discourage small farming. The provisions are especially difficult for small operations that emphasize diversity, or organic practice, or permaculture, as the paperwork load required will be hundreds of times more complicated than that of, say, a huge factory farm growing GMO corn. . .this is how I see it.

Read the material for yourself and form a educated opinion. Primarily this will impact the consumer, rather than the producer, and everyone has a vested interest in the details. Kiss farmers markets good bye if the bill passes in its current form.

I'm trying to get a discussion going on the forum, by the way. It's important.

UPDATE: Farm language has been modified, thankfully, to be specifically exempt as long as no processing occurs on the farm site. The language pertaining to processing is very precise, and involves simple things like cutting or drying. More on this as it comes along.

UPDATE: annual fee for drying herbs has been raised to 1000 bucks, from 500, from zero. Monsanto may care little. You might.

UPDATE: This bill, written by people on the Monsanto payroll(no shit, really.) has passed the house. Some exemptions have supposedly been made for small farms, no details.

There's two other bills in tow behind this one if this one doesn't achieve the agenda. Again, written by those on the Monsanto payroll. No shit. Stay tuned.


mrostron said...

Jay is absolutely right on this, although where the government will find the funds to enforce might negate some of the effects. Also, my understanding is that if no money changes hands; ie. such as in cooperatives or communes or other such bartering or sharing exchanges, the laws would not be applicable.
On the other hand, if you raise chickens and want to sell a few dozen eggs a week for beer money you would have to go through the paperwork...
Food for thought indeed....

Anonymous said...

Jay this is a great post and just depressing. Having just seen Food, Inc. and the Monsanto bullshit even more so. It is all just SO very wrong! I am looking to see what I can personally do to affect this right now!

okonek said...

I find these things terribly confusing so I am hoping you can clear it up. It looks to me that the bill specifically excludes farms. Section 101(b)paragraph 1A states the bill applies to a facility, "The term ‘facility’ means any factory, warehouse, or establishment (including a factory, warehouse, or establishment of an importer) that manufactures, processes, packs, or holds food." The following paragraph 1B clearly states that farms are not a facility, "Such term does not include farms; private residences of individuals; restaurants; other retail food establishments; nonprofit food establishments in which food is prepared for or served directly to the consumer; or fishing vessels (except such vessels engaged in processing as defined in section 123.3(k) of title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, or any successor regulations)." So it appears that farms are not regulated by the bill. On the other hand it does appear that if a farmer were to process the food it sells to the public, like pickling it or canning it in some way, then it would be forced to register as a food processing facility. Am I reading this right?

jaywfitz said...

You are correct in that read, at the moment as how the law stands. A farm is allowed to "harvest, "trim outer leaves", and cool." without a 1000 dollar permit. That is the whole extent of what a farm is allowed. Anything beyond that makes one "processor" and subject to the regulation. Most farms by that definition do indeed some do some sort of "processing" by that definition. Coffee growers here in Hawaii are a prime example. There is no value in green beans, an so most all coffee producers dry they. This would fall under the law as "processing" clearly. One clear example of many, but the penalties for non-compliance are so extreme that farmers, especially small ones, will be very gunshy of anything that remotely looks like a violation. The ultimate cost will be borne by the consumer.

okonek said...

Thanks Jay for the clarification. I guess I am more concerned about what this will do to the farmer, particularly the small farmer who doesn't have the resources to maintain the damn records let alone pay the fees. Thanks for the post and the great blog!