The campaign was prompted by moves such as an order by the Department of Agriculture for submachine guns with 30-round magazines.
The consumer group encourages lawmakers to “demilitarize” the agencies.
“While the actual number of armed raids has been low, the fear and distrust that they have created in the local foods community has been widespread and damaging,” the farm-support organization said.
The group pointed to the 2010 armed raid of a food co-op in Southern California in which the FDA participated. The raid of Rawsome Food is “still reverberating through the raw milk community,” the organization said. The co-op was raided again in 2011 “with armed police on site while the club’s food was seized and hauled away.”
The solicitation in May by the USDA for submachine guns “raises concern among farmers and local food consumers,” the group said.
“Why would an agency tasked with regulating agriculture in our country need such a weapon?” the group asked. “Answer: It shouldn’t. If agency officials face a situation in which armed backup is truly called for, they can go through the proper procedures to have support from the Department of Justice.”
The solicitation by the federal agency specified that the guns must have a “sling,” be “lightweight” and have an “oversized trigger guard for gloved operation.”
Pending in Congress now is H.R. 4934, introduced in June by Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah. It has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
It would “prohibit certain federal agencies from using or purchasing certain firearms.”
It would also demand a report from the comptroller general on every federal agency with units using “hard-plated body armor, shields, or helmets” that respond to “high-risk situations.”
It already has several dozen cosponsors: Reps. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.; Sam Graves, R-Mo.; Tom McClintock, R-Calif.; Mike Pompeo, R-Kan.; Jeff Duncan, R-S.C.; Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich.; Todd Rokita, R-Ind.; Billy Long, R-Mo.; Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif.; Adrian Smith, R-Neb.; James Lankford, R-Okla.; Louie Gohmert, R-Texas; Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.; Tom Rice, R-S.C.; Mark Amodei, R-Nev.; Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.; Steve Stockman, R-Texas; Randy Weber Sr., R-Texas; Cynthis Lummis, R-Wyo.; Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah; Reid Ribble, R-Wis.; Scott Perry, R-Pa.; Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.; Steve Daines, R-Mont.; Robert Latta, R-Ohio; Chris Collins, R-N.Y.; Steve Southerland, R-Fla.; John Duncan Jr., R-Tenn.; Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla.; and Henry C. Johnson Jr., D-Ga.
Farm to Consumer said the bill would “repeal the arrest and firearm authority” to many bureaucrats, would prohibit federal agencies – outside of those with traditional law enforcement duties such as the FBI – from buying machine guns and grenades and require a report from the Government Accountability Office on all agencies with military-style units.
At the Modern Farmer blog, Charles McFarlane cites the USDA explanation for the needs for such extraordinary weapons.
“The types of investigations conducted … include criminal activities such as fraud in farm programs; significant thefts of government property for funds, bribery or extortion; smuggling; and assaults and threats of violence against USDA employees,” he wrote.
“Those seem like legitimate enforcement activities, but still: submachine guns? Not everyone believes the USDA being armed to the teeth is justifiable.”
Liz Reitzig, co-founder of the Farm Food Freedom Coalition, told McFarlane, “What we have seen happen, with the FDA especially, is they have come onto small farms, raw milk producers and raided the heck out of them with armed agents present.”
The raids have brought outraged protests, especially following a series of armed raids on the Rawsome Food Club in Venice, California.
In 2011, FDA, FBI and LAPD agents raided Rawsome and arrested and jailed three for “conspiracy to sell raw milk.”
According to reports, club members watched as agents loaded up raw dairy and meat for “testing,” then let it sit in the sun for hours.
A video report:
A commentary was produced about a similar raid there a year earlier.
One member of Congress told McFarlane, “We have never argued that federal regulators don’t need to protect themselves.”
But he said if USDA investigations were perceived to be potentially violent, “They should do what the rest of us do, call the local sheriff.”
His was an amendment that would have disarmed Food and Drug Administration bureaucrats and accomplished several other goals.
“I’m troubled by images of armed agents raiding Amish farms and preventing them selling milk directly from the cow,” he said in a Senate floor statement posted online at the time. “I think we have bigger problems in our country than sending armed FDA agents into peaceful farmers’ land and telling them they can’t sell milk directly from the cow.”
Mike Adams, who writes at NaturalNews.com as the “Health Ranger,” said the plan also would “halt the FDA’s armed raids on raw milk farmers; it would also stop the FDA’s outrageous and longstanding censorship of truthful health claims of dietary supplements and medicinal herbs.”
“The very fact that U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has introduced such an amendment is proof positive that Rand Paul is exactly the kind of leader that can help take our nation out of the age of government tyranny and censorship and into a new era of transparency, accountability and liberty,” he said at the time.
But the amendment hours later was defeated 78-15.
The core of the conflict stems from the federal government’s desire to regulate the food industry from start to finish. Local growers and producers who would like to sell their products often face enforcement actions for not having a proper packaging facility or following some other regulation. A major dispute has developed over the sale of unpasteurized milk, which many people consider more healthy. Thirty states allow it but 20 don’t, and the federal government forbids it in interstate commerce.
Paul’s amendment addressed those concerns.
The senator said the first provision would halt the “overzealous regulation of vitamins, food and supplements by codifying the First Amendment prohibition on prior restraint.”
“The First Amendment says you can’t prevent speech, even commercial speech, in advance of the speech. You can’t tell Cheerios that they can’t say there’s a health benefit to their Cheerios. Under our current FDA laws, FDA says if you want to market prune juice, you can’t say that it cures constipation,” he said.
“Despite four court orders condemning the practice as a violation of the First Amendment, the FDA continues to suppress consumers’ rights to be informed and to make informed choices.”
On his effort to disarm the FDA, Paul said, “Historically the criminal law was intended to punish only the most horrible offenses that everyone agreed were inherently wrong or evil, offenses like rape, murder, theft, arson – but now we’ve basically federalized thousands of activities and called them crimes.”
He continued, “If bureaucrats need to involve the police, let’s have them use the FBI, but I see no reason to have the FDA carrying weapons.”