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Coming government takeover of food

“Recession gardens” are springing up everywhere. There’s always been a home gardening passion among many Americans, and farmer’s markets are a familiar part of American life. However, this is something new.

In response to the soaring cost of food, more Americans are turning back to their roots – literally. Mail order seed giant Burpee Seeds reports record demand for garden vegetable seeds. Cable TV shows on home gardening are suddenly popular beyond the core of committed “grow your own” types. The healthy food movement has been lifted beyond its core of Agbiz rejectionists. Websites catering to those thirsting for basic knowledge on home gardening “how to” are flooded with new visitors.

The “recession garden” has arrived in your backyard (or one near you) echoing the “victory garden” of World War II.

Both big government and big business are alarmed – and both are working to control this phenomenon. What’s in the works threatens a government definition of what is “food” and proposes regulations amounting to a government takeover of the production, transportation and sale of food in this country for the benefit of Big Ag.

First, Michelle Obama swings a shovel into action, tearing out the White House lawn to plant a vegetable garden. In response, politicians all over rush to show they are backyard farmers too.

Then the leftist think tanks swing into action. Building on the Salmonella outbreak linked to nine deaths from peanut products late last year, a study released last week by the Trust for America’s Health (in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) called food safety in the U.S. “plagued with problems.” The study found that the American economy lost $44 billion in medical care and lost productivity because of unsafe food and called on the Obama administration to create a new Food Safety Administration and double (from $542 million in FY 2009) federal funding to insure food safety.

Not coincidentally, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., introduced HR 875 to establish a new Food Safety Administration to “protect the public health” and “ensure the safety of food.” Rep. DeLauro believes that the FDA is not effective enough with the current laws governing food safety, so HR 875 grants broad new powers to the new FSA. DeLauro is a former chief of staff to Sen. Chris Dodd. Her husband, Stan Greenberg, is a leftist consultant whose corporate clients include Monsanto.

This bill – if passed – would give FSA inspectors the right to enter, anywhere in the world, any premises of any food establishment to inspect and determine whether the product of that food establishment should be sold to American consumers.

And you and I say, “Great! Who wants to eat tainted food products whether from American or foreign sources?” Having established the always popular posture of the federal government protecting you against Big Food, the author of the bill hopes you read no further.

I did read further, and here’s what I found.

HR 875 defines “food establishment” (among other things) as any “facility … that processes food or a facility that hold, stores, or transports food or food ingredients.” The bill also defines “food production facility” as “any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding facility.” The bill empowers the new FSA to promulgate regulations further defining what “food” is, and regulating the manner of its growth, processing and delivery to the consumer.

The companion Senate Bill (SB 425) introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, sheds more light on the true goal of all this. Her bill requires “traceability” in these words:

The traceability system shall require each article of food … to be identified in a manner that enables the Secretary to retrieve the history, use, and location of the article through a recordkeeping and audit system …

Taken together, these bills envision federal government definition of what is “food” and the requirement that, if you produce this “food,” you will have to provide the paperwork to document that you produced it according to the regulations of the FSA.

Basically, don’t sell, or even give, the produce from your “recession garden” to anyone – or you’re in a heap of trouble.

HR 875 provides a $1 million fine for each infraction of the “rules” or “orders” of the FSA for each day that such infractions are deemed by the FSA to exist. SB 425 provides a fine of $100,000 for each violation of any order or regulation of the FSA and for each day that such violation occurs.

Small farmers and food processors (jams and jelly folks, for example) would be out of business if these bills are passed into law. Ditto farmers’ markets, and, potentially any individual who sells or even shares the bounty of a home garden.

If these bills pass into law, Big Ag Biz would increase its stranglehold on the food business, and big government would expand its swarm of officers bedeviling every private pursuit of happiness.

The M.O. for this government takeover of “food” for the benefit of bigger government and big business is certainly familiar – it is playing out in energy and health care, too.

As Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel famously admitted, there is no “crisis” that is not an opportunity to advance the agenda of bigger government.

So … what of the produce from the White House garden? Without an army of clerks and “traceable” paperwork, could the veggies from the White House even be given to the homeless shelter down the street? And what of the Obama voters in the “healthy food,” back-to-the-Earth community? They will be collateral damage as the FSA takes over “food” for Monsanto. Is this the “change” they want us to believe in?