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Fresh & Local – Food Freedom Act: Wyoming Unleashes Artisan Foods by Bryant Osborn

Everything I Want to Do is Illegal book coverEarlier this month, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead signed into law the “Wyoming Food Freedom Act.” Under this first-in-the-nation law, direct-to-consumer food sales by farmers and

Wyoming State Rep. Tyler Lindholm

Wyoming State Rep. Tyler Lindholm

other food producers cannot be subjected to any “licensure, permitting, certification, inspection, packaging, or labeling” requirements by state agencies. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Tyler Lindholm (R-District 1), calls it, “a measure designed to stop over-regulation of locally produced foods.”

Wyoming – not California, or the west coast or even New England, but Wyoming – has now jumped into the lead as the national hotbed for local artisan foods.

This revolutionary law is very big news to local-market farms and local economies nationwide, but like many highly significant stories, this one has received no media coverage.

Here is why this is important. Joel Salatin, Polyface Farm, Swoop, Virginia, is a true pioneer in the local food movement. He calls himself a “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-farmer.” Michael Pollan devoted a significant portion of his best-selling 2006 book The Omnivore’s Dilemma to Joel and his holistic approach to animal husbandry, “management intensive grazing,” and his devotion to local-only food distribution channels.

Joel Saltin

Joel Saltin

Joel wrote a book entitled Everything I Want to Do is Illegal detailing his battles with food police over selling food directly to end consumers. The book makes a powerful case that food “safety” laws in many cases do very little to protect anyone, but instead do a great deal to kill off or stifle competition, entrepreneurship, homemade artisanal foods and cottage food operations.

In the book, Joel writes about the Staunton Curb Market, which was a precursor of today’s farmers’ markets. The Curb Market began during the Great Depression as a way for cash-deprived farmers to earn money. Farmers never lacked for food, but they did lack for cash.

The Curb Market began before the era of food regulations, so in addition to fruits and vegetables, you could buy butter, whipping cream, cottage cheese, and yogurt – all farm fresh from unpasteurized milk. You could also buy eggs, farm butchered beef, pork and chicken, farm cured bacon and ham, home canned goods, potato salad, bread, and all kinds of cakes and pies.

In the decades that followed, as food safety laws proliferated, the Curb Market was largely grandfathered and exempted. As a result, Mr. Salatin writes, “[T]he Curb Market at one time sported 40 vendors and was the retail action place in the community.” He went on to say, “Those were the glory days. That is where our family learned the power of value adding.”

Today most of those Curb Market homemade artisanal foods would be illegal to sell. The most obvious example is raw milk. Selling it is a criminal act here in Virginia, but have you ever heard of anyone getting sick from raw milk in places where it is legal? Then why continue to ban its sale by local farms and its use in local products like cheese, yogurt and ice cream?

IM000385In the book, Joel tells the story, “A friend who ran a Grade A dairy wanted to make cheese. But by the time he installed all the required machinery and hardware, it would have cost him $100,000 to make one pound of cheese. End of dream. He continues to struggle, barely making ends meet. I’d love to buy his cheese, even if he made it in the kitchen sink.”

Joel points out, “Innovation demands embryonic births. The problem is that complying with all these codes requires that even the prototype must be too big to be birthed. In reality, then, what we have are still-birth dreams because the mandated accoutrements are too big.”

The purpose of the Wyoming Food Freedom Act is to allow for the sale and consumption of homemade foods, and to encourage the expansion of agricultural sales by farmers markets, ranches, farms and home based producers, so long as the products are bought for home consumption, and the sale is made directly face-to-face with the end consumer.

When the producer and customer know each other and meet face-to-face, the producer has a great incentive to provide a wholesome product without any additional oversight. It is when the producer and customer never meet that the incentive arises to cut corners.

The Wyoming law does not apply to red meat, but does apply to poultry and raw milk.

The new law takes “local foods off the black market,” explains Rep. Lindholm. “It will no longer be illegal to buy a lemon meringue pie from your neighbor or a jar of milk from your local farm.”

This bill returns to the way things used to be during the Staunton Curb Market. For decades, people made and sold food without any government interference, and it worked just fine.

Jackson Hole Wyoming

Jackson Hole Wyoming

 

Joe Geraud, a retired University of Wyoming law professor writing in the Casper Star-Tribune, summed it up, “The fundamental issue presented is whether Wyoming residents are willing to abide with a contemporary liberalism that holds Americans, in their comprehensive incompetence, need governmental supervision to determine what food they ingest if not prepared in a licensed or otherwise monitored preparation process.” He went on to say, “At a minimum, all private entities (individuals and organizations) should remain free to determine how they choose to incorporate the preparation of food into their private affairs and organized functions.”

Joel Salatin believes that many of the highly processed foods currently sold at supermarkets could be supplanted with community-based, locally sourced, entrepreneurial fare. What blocks much of this from happening are food regulations. He writes, “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard . . . what could be if local food entrepreneurs were freed up to access their neighborhoods with homemade, artisanal food.”

Wyoming is all set to experience that.

Wyoming state flag

Bryant Osborn - Fresh and Local

Bryant Osborn – Fresh and Local

 

 

Bryant Osborn and his wife Terry own Corvallis Farms in Culpeper County. Bryant’s Fresh & Local columns on local-market agriculture now appear regularly here at Virginia Right!. He can be reached at bryant@corvallisfarms.com

About Tom White

Tom is a US Navy Veteran, owns an Insurance Agency and is currently an IT Manager for a Virginia Distributor. He has been published in American Thinker, currently writes for the Richmond Examiner as well as Virginia Right! Blog.Tom lives in Hanover County, Va and is involved in politics at every level and is a Recovering Republican who has finally had enough of the War on Conservatives in progress with the Leadership of the GOP on a National Level.

3 Responses to “Fresh & Local – Food Freedom Act: Wyoming Unleashes Artisan Foods by Bryant Osborn”

  1. Robert Shannon says:

    G.I’s returning from WWII came back to NYC, spent a few hundred dollars buying an old Dodge, painted ” Joe’s Taxi” on the side of it and were instantly employed and productive members of society, not needing the vast array of social safety nets that seem to suffice today as a legitimate means of making your way in America.

    Recently NYC held auctions for Taxi medallions, which fetched prices of $250,000.00 Call it the Taxi Protection racket, shielding current operators from the healthy competition that built the greatest economic machine in modern history, a.k.a America.

    The principle is the same. It is about protecting the entrenched farmers , often very much politically connected from good old fashioned competition.

    Whether Taxi’s or farm products–the principle is the same.

    Bob Shannon

  2. Mort Coleman says:

    I will we could have this in VA. I think we will all be hoping our neighbor farmer has a little extra to sell in the not to distant future.

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  1. […] I wrote in last week’s column, earlier this month, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead signed into law the “Wyoming Food Freedom Act.” […]


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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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