STATE RAW MILK BILLS AND MORE
As we head into 2013, the state legislatures are gearing up for their legislative sessions. Although a few state legislatures meet year-round, most of them meet for only a few months at the beginning of the year, and some only every otheryear. So the window for working on state bills is very short!
Texas has kicked off the legislative season by filing a bill to legalize the sale of raw milk at farmers markets. HB 46, filed by Representative Dan Flynn, is the second attempt to expand raw milk access in Texas and has already garnered significant attention. A raw milk bill is in the works in Montana, and discussions are occurring about potential bills in other states as well.
In addition to raw milk bills, there are other legislative options to help improve access to nutrient-dense foods. From cottage food laws to reducing regulations on farmers market, there is increasing recognition that all food is not created equal and that the law should distinguish between food in the industrial food system and the local food system.
At the same time, we can expect that Big Ag will introduce bills in several states, aimed at topics from restricting raw milk access to preempting local control of genetically engineered crops to imposing new burdensome regulations on farmers.
Whether it is raw milk or the right to sell local foods, it is vital to be well prepared for the industry’s arguments, both with strong fact-based responses and strong grassroots support. The first step for each and every member is to get to know your state legislators. Meet with your state representative and senator, and talk with them about how important raw milk and high quality local foods are to you and your family. There are tips for how to schedule and plan for a meeting with your legislators posted at http://farmandranchfreedom.org/sff/tips-meetinglegislators.pdf. We can provide materials to help prepare for your meetings; email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
In many states, you can monitor the bills being filed by using the state legislature’s website or at http://legiscan.com. Share the information with your state’s chapters, and let the WAPF office know about any bills of concern, to help spread the word more broadly. While we can never match the other side’s money, we have power in numbers.
In the Fall 2012 issue of Wise Traditions, we discussed the various paths down which the federal Farm Bill could go. Ultimately, Congress took one of the less likely paths, and simply let the Farm Bill lapse on October 1. Technically, this meant that the law reverted to the law from the 1940s. However, because of the way most programs are budgeted, most of the actual effects have yet to be felt as of the time this article goes to press in December. But should Congress fail to act during the post-election lame duck session, the repercussions could be dramatic. Since one of the results would be to revert from the subsidy system to parity payments, which would require industrial agriculture companies to pay fair, inflation-adjusted prices for raw agricultural products, it is very unlikely that Congress would allow this to happen.
Given the issues that Congress faces in this lame duck session, including the highly publicized “fiscal cliff,” it is unlikely that they will be able to pass a full Farm Bill. The most likely scenario is that Congress will pass a short-term extension of the 2008 Farm Bill, maintaining the subsidy system, and take up the difficult task of crafting a full, five-year Farm Bill early next year. There are increasing calls to truly reform the agricultural subsidy system, and not merely to replace it with an equally flawed crop insurance program. The 2013 Farm Bill might provide more opportunities for reform than the 2012 attempts, although, as always, that remains to be seen.
GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS
California’s Proposition 37 called for labeling on genetically engineered foods―a basic concept that should not require a battle. But after a forty-five million dollar advertising campaign by giant chemical and processed food companies, Prop 37 narrowly lost with 47 percent of the vote.
Pesticide companies led by Monsanto and DuPont, and processed food corporations led by Pepsi and Kraft spent an unprecedented amount of money to confuse and deceive Californians into voting against their right to know what’s in their food. Although they won this round, some positive things did come from the campaign to pass Prop 37. Most directly, there are now millions of people who are aware, for the first time, that there are genetically engineered ingredients in their food. In addition, the determination of activists to see GMO labels become a reality is stronger than ever, and we will continue to build a national grassroots campaign to push for mandatory labeling across the country.
The grassroots activists in many states around the country are gearing up for bills and ballot initiatives in 2013 to demand labeling. Other states, which may not have strong enough grassroots networks to realistically work on bills at this time, are working to create the necessary foundation for the future.
In more encouraging news, a ten-year ban on genetically modified foods in Peru went into effect in late November, when Peru’s chief executive approved the regulations for the law that prohibits the importation, production and use of GMO foods in the country. Violating the law can result in a maximum fine of about fourteen million dollars. The law, which was passed last year, is aimed at preserving Peru’s biodiversity and supporting local farmers.
Besides protecting Peru’s export industry in organic products, the ban protects Peru’s exceptionally varied native plant species, particularly its famous diversity in corn and potatoes. But while the ban will curb the planting and importation of GMOs in the country, a test conducted by the Peruvian Association of Consumers and Users at the time of the ban’s implementation found that 77 percent of supermarket products tested contained GM contaminants.
The fight to stop GMOs anywhere in the Americas will be a long and difficult one, and we must be prepared for many ups and downs along the way.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2012.