Activism

Published on March 10th, 2009 | by Megan Prusynski

Bills Could Reorganize Farming and Criminalize Organic Farming

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

In two vague bills introduced both in the House and Senate of the US Congress, a vast reorganization of America’s agriculture system aimed at tracking and regulating foods for public safety could endanger organic farms and gardens.

[social_buttons]

The bills, S.425 and H.R.875, attempt to modernize food safety and regulate and standardize agriculture by creating an agency called the Food Safety Administration, but in the process they could threaten organic farming.

Provisions include mandatory registration and inspection for “any food establishment or foreign food establishment engaged in manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding food for consumption in the United States,” and sets standard practices such as minimums for fertilizer use.

Any food that the agency deems “unsafe, adulterated or misbranded” can be seized and the food establishment or farm fined. It’s not clear how these foods will be deemed unsafe. The bills aim to industrialize farms, standardize farming practices, require registration and inspection for any one producing food, and make practices key to organic farming illegal.

While we certainly need to improve our food safety, the problem with these bills is that they are so vague and open-ended, they could be used to justify banning organic practices such as composting and seed saving, or to put into law standard practices such as the required use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

The bills are speculated to have been funded by agri-business giants including Monsanto. The threat of the new standards is that only approveed seeds, fertilizers, and farming methods could be used, and if Monsanto gets their way, all farms and gardens be growing their plants and using their products. That is definitely a scary thought.

Organic farming is certainly already revolutionary, but it could be an illegal act if these bills are passed without reworking to protect organic farmers and backyard gardeners. Please contact your senators and representatives today and urge them to protect public health and safety without criminalizing organic farming. There isn’t much time to comment on this bill, so act now!


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


About the Author

I grew up camping and hiking in the woods of Idaho, leading to a connection with and deep respect for nature. I recently moved to the Mendocino coast in Northern California, where I was happy to find not only beautiful redwoods and beaches, but a high level of green consciousness. I am a graphic and web designer who focuses on making the world a better place through sustainable design and communication. I specialize in green design solutions for small businesses, non-profits, and activist organizations. When I'm not designing, I'm hiking, camping, traveling, taking pictures, blogging, and spending time with my boyfriend and our "fur-kids." You can find out more about me on my sites and blogs: my personal site, volksvegan.org, or unplug magazine.



  • Aline

    Megan, good job! You are right and anybody who does not have their head in the sand knows what you’re saying is spot on. We’ve had the last six years of facist, corporatocracy abuses of the people and misuses of power to prove it! The shills here…. they won’t be around long. When their connection to matrix gets disrupted, we enter a new paradigm as the shite starts hitting the fan, and their perfect little dream world’s start to self-destruct, so will they! Good riddance!

  • Kenny Dickens

    Megan, I am very glad that they’re people like you around trying to inform us about things that you are passionate about….THANK YOU. On that note, I am also an organic home gardener for some time now. My wife and I try to buy organic whenever we can. Through my research growing and buying organic is the way for us. I haven’t used chemical pesticides or fertilizers in years, and my garden seems to thrive. Unlike before, when I constantly had to feed and kill year round with little results. My beneficial bug count and earthworm count has increased dramatically.
    What can I do to help, I know that I can do alot more than what I am doing now…I don’t want them to take away my garden. What do they want me to put there,…monsanto, bayer, and sygenta plants, or grass…HELL NO!

  • These bills are very tricky indeed and taking them at face value is not a wise action. Being a strong supporter of our bill or rights and a gun owner, heed my advice when dealing with bills and how they are worded.
    YOU WILL GET SCREWED! Those 4 words are words of experience. Just when you think a bill is alright and nothing “bad” is going to come out of them, wham! you get hit with the bad stuff. Don’t be naive I haven’t seen a good bill come out of W.D.C yet. Well, Except H.R. 1207.

  • From :http://dprogram.net/2009/03/16/banning-organic-farming-regulating-home-gardening-hr-875-s-425/

    Full text version pdf of HR 875: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:h875ih.txt.pdf

    Pay special attention to

    * Section 3 which is the definitions portion of the bill-read in it’s entirety.
    * section 103, 206 and 207- read in its entirety.

    What it Does:

    * Legally binds state agriculture departments to enforce federal guidelines effectively taking away the states power to do anything other than being food police for the federal government.
    * Effectively criminalizes organic farming, but doesn’t actually use the word ‘organic.’
    * Affects anyone growing food, even if they are not selling it but consuming it.
    * Affects anyone producing meat of any kind including wild game.
    * Legislation is so broad based that every aspect of growing or producing food can be made illegal. There are no specifics, which is bizarre considering how long the legislation is.
    * Section 103 is almost entirely about the administrative aspect of the legislation. It will allow the appointing of officials from the factory farming corporations and lobbyists and classify them as experts and allow them to determine and interpret the legislation. Who do you think they are going to side with?
    * Section 206 defines what will be considered a ‘food production facility’ and what will be enforced upon all food production facilities. The wording is so broad based that a backyard gardener could be fined and more.
    * Section 207 requires that the state’s Agriculture department act as the food police and enforce the federal requirements. This takes away the states power and is in violation of the 10th amendment.

  • jon

    In the recent years we have had several food scares involving salmonella, most recently in peanuts I think. I would have to question how many of these threats came out of an organic farmers garden… as I don’t think that any of them have.

    I agree with Miss Megan’s concern over the vagueness of this bill and the open ended terminology being used. When you look at what has become of our Constitution and Bill of Rights due to people in power wanting more power being able to split hairs and manipulate terminology… a person can not help but become concerned when reading a bill that is non specific.

    Another question that I can not help but ask is, why a bill like this would be introduced while food prices are skyrocketing? Would regulations such as this bill intends to impose not raise food prices even further? In the end, it is the consumer that will pay the price for increased regulations, and I don’t know about you but every time I see our government become involved in regulating something its quality goes down the tubes while it’s prices go up.

    This next question is off the subject, but something I am wondering if anyone else has noticed… In the news we are seeing shooting being reported on a pretty much daily basis. Is this a “warm up” to get us to agree with the feds taking our guns away? I am thinking it is. Is there anyone out there that doesn’t think that criminals will still have guns after they take ours away? Has anyone payed attention to crime rates in England since their government took away the guns of the common people? Not intending to change the subject, just curious.

    Megan, thanks for the posting. It brings up some scary points and I think people would be foolish if they were not concerned about this bill. Have a good one.

  • T Quigly

    Of course the bills don’t come right out and ban organic farming. What they Do is establish monetary, testing and personnel regulations so onerous that only the Mon-satan-o mega conglomerates could afford to meet them. Rosa DeLauro who introduced the House bill, is wife to Mon-santa-o exec Stanley ‘Greedy’ Greenberg.
    This is the same pattern they will use later this year in Codex Alimentarius, to hyper-regulate natual supplements, herbs and vitamins, so that, like these outlaw-small-farms bills, Codex will basically outlaw small herbal and natuaral-supplement companies and health-food stores. Research & educate yourself on Codex Alimentarius.

  • This seems to have led to a lot of confusion, but according to a story at The Daily Green, this may be much ado about nothing. Nonetheless, one commenter points out that the controversy is founded in language that is not only subject to interpretation, but which would literally compel it – and most likely inconsistently.

    That would seem enough reason to support a re-do.

  • J robbins

    Sorry, I was steered to the article and had to verify to myself that the headlines were based opinions and not fact. I asked several posters to point to the sections in the bill that required organic food to be sprayed with pesticides, and of course they couldn’t.

    Paints a nice picture of conspricacy and that is all they care about.

    This is how NGO’s, industry, gov’t and individuals lose credibilty…by spinning tales.

  • Dan Kelly

    The truth on this (as is often the case) seems to be somewhere in the middle. It’s not as dire as alarmists are making it out to be, but at the same time it’s certainly not benign either. The potential is certainly there for a lot of trouble down the road.

    I was surprised to see absolutely no mention of this on the Grist environmental website, one of the more popular destinations for green living and everything organic.

    The Organic Consumers Association is concerned, and has an action alert where you can put in your zip code and send off a pre-written letter to your representative:

    http://capwiz.com/grassrootsnetroots/issues/alert/?alertid=12878056

  • Jorg

    Why do not the farmers large and small sue Monsanto for polluting through cross-pollination? It is Monsantos people who are the enemy and should be stopped at all costs. Where is courage, bravery, steadfastness, and the such of the farmers and those people who care about the sanctity of our food? The corruption from Monsanto need not be tolerated!! If action to STOP and DESTROY Monsanto and any other companies with like agendas does not happen immediately, all people will die slow and painful deaths through lack of proper nutrition. The lack of proper nutrition through the genetic engineering and use of harmful pesticides and chemicals is most likely irreversible. All people with any grain of common sense MUST rise up and put a stop to “The Monsanto Madness”!!!

  • Megan

    And another, on Eco Child’s Play, focusing on the effects on Farmer’s Markets and the burden these bills could have on small farmers: http://ecochildsplay.com/2009/03/10/could-the-food-safety-modernization-act-of-2009-be-the-end-to-farmers-markets-and-organic-farms/

  • Megan

    I found another article on these bills, and why they could threaten organic farming, if anyone is interested: http://www.appomattoxnews.com/2009/my-problems-with-h-r-875-the-food-safety-modernization-act-of-2009.html

  • Megan

    The quote in the article from one of the bills doesn’t seem to exclude places where food is manufactured, i.e. grown: “any food establishment or foreign food establishment engaged in manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding food for consumption in the United States.”

    Farmer’s markets would definitely be affected. There is mention of standardized practices that would be required of every registered food producer (and that’s everyone, from what I understand anyone producing food for public consumption would have to be registered and inspected), and fertilizers are mentioned there – I don’t know about you, but I highly doubt that these required fertilzers would be organic.

    Monsanto is the company that has been tied to this bill – they would definitely benefit directly because if everything having to do with food production is controlled and regulated, Monsanto’s seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides would provide an easy solution to standardizing farm practices. The fear that I have heard about this bill is that the regulations put in place will require all food producers to be standardized by using only “approved” (Monsanto) fertilizers and other products. So that is why there’s a bit of a scare about this.

    The language of these bills is very difficult to read and very vague – so while it does not come right out and say “this bill bans organic gardening” – the danger is in how the law will be applied. There’s certainly a lot of room in the language to force certain practices and products on food producers since they’ll be required to be registered and regulated by the agency the law creates. I just see a lot of room for abuse in this bill, though you do have to read between the lines to see this.

    My main concern is that with such vague language, these bills could potentially spell doom for organic food producers and sellers since they’re using “non-industry standard” practices already. While the intention is good on the surface, these bills need a lot of work before they go into law – and the window of time for debate and public comment on this bill is very narrow, so our representatives need to know that these bills are not ready to be laws until all the details are hammered out and organic farming is protected and addressed in them.

    Thanks for the discussion, everyone.

  • Spencer

    Here is another one Megan, and thanks for bringing this up for discussion.
    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/03/law-farmers-market-vendor-million-fine.php?dcitc=daily_nl

  • Eggplant

    Whereas these two bills are of great concern if indeed their broad interpretation could require home gardeners to register their gardens, could effectively make organic farming illegal, or could even shut down framers’ markets, I’m not sure if that is actually the case.

    Please read SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS of H.R.875. If you look at 13(b) and (14) within this definition section, it specifically excludes any “farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation”.

    In other words, this bill, as defined in Section 3, is about what happens to the food after it is produced. It is not about where or how food is produced. It clearly differentiates between what it calls a FOOD ESTABLISHMENT (using the bills all caps) and a FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY.

    Of course, farmers’ markets and roadside food stands would clearly be regulated by this bill.

    This is a very important distinction that needs to be acknowledged before reading the rest of the bill. Understanding House and Senate bills is a tricky proposition at best.

    If others read this differently, please comment.

  • Spencer

    Ok I looked over the bills and I am a little confused I know that there is nothing saying that they will ban organic in them. So I guess what I am trying to understand is how do you jump from open ended to banning organic farming or as I have read on other blogs to banning seed banks? I am just a little confused.

    I might see that some people are worried about the need to trace product back to its origin but in Canada beef now need to have a special ear tag with a bar code and registered number or it cannot leave your ranch. I am just a little confused please explain the concern. thanks

  • Mark

    “The bills aim to industrialize farms, standardize farming practices, require registration and inspection for any one producing food, and make practices key to organic farming illegal.”

    Could you point out where in the bill this assertions are supported? In particular the provision about industrializing farms and making certain practices illegal? Also you mention that the bill is speculated to be supported by agri-business giants. I find it very hard to believe that agri-business would want a bill like this – especially the industrial meat industry. If nothing else this feels more like a disinformation campaign by the agri-businesses themselves, in order to get well meaning, but frankly highly impressionable people to ask their senators to not support the bill.

    Put in context of Obama’s committment to organic farms (and an organic garden in the whitehouse), these assertions are absurd and smack of paranoid consipiracy theory.

  • Megan

    I realize that the bills are very vague and don’t come right out and say that organic farming will be banned – but the danger is that they are so open-ended that they could be used to justify regulating how we grow food, requiring the use of certain chemicals in the name of “safety”, etc. I do agree that the video is a bit alarmist about it, but as an organic gardener, after reading the bills, it was easy to see that they would bring about a massive reorganization of the farm system that could have detrimental effects on small organic farms, farmer’s market growers, and home gardeners.

    And I do believe organic gardening is revolutionary in today’s world – yes, it’s the way farming was for centuries before the post-WWII introduction of chemical-based farming, but I think growing one’s own organic food can be a revolutionary act, especially in light of things like this bill trying to bring it down. This is of course, my opinion, so I’d appreciate it if you would ponder what I mean rather than just calling me ridiculous. Organic farming, especially on a small scale, can be more expensive and more difficult, so in my eyes doing the more difficult (but right) thing when it seems most of the world is doing things differently is pretty revolutionary. Viva la organic revolution!

  • Virginia

    The text of the bills do not in any way support the alarmist assertions made in that news broadcast, and having watched the video, I’m very skeptical that that is a bona fide news organization.

  • Steve

    The main problem I have with legislation is that (a) it’s been proved repeatedly that you can’t legislate morality – see Boesky, Milken, Madoff, Ponzi, prohibition, etc., etc. – and (b) it’s largely too complex even for the best lawyers to comprehend. Oh, and how do these Congresspersons propose to enforce said legislation? Ask the FDA, TSA, FBI, EPA, and so on how that works.

  • Mark Rogers

    “Organic farming is certainly already revolutionary”

    Do you have any idea how ridiculous that statement is?

    I don’t think it is much of a strecth to say that agrichemical companies did not exist prior to 1900. So for almost the entire history of man, homo sapiens “ate organic”.

    Sorry to burst your bubble.

Back to Top ↑