Monthly Archives: August 2014

Appreciation for Legislators, Education for Constituents

by Bernadette Barber

This will be an interesting fall,  educating people on the Virginia Food Freedom Act and on how the agricultural system works.

I think it will be much easier than I thought, with a news aggregate of Virginia Public Access Project, I get some pretty interesting articles with Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore’s quotes along with some select politicians and of course, Farm Bureau’s take on their version of Agriculture.

As many of you know The Virginia Food Freedom Act has been introduced in the general assembly twice, and previous to that, my delegate, Margaret Ransone, was aware of it and although promised that she would introduce it, chose not to at the last minute or at least strung me along, until the last minute. The bill would help many small farmers because the profit is in the processing.  If small farmers have a government enemy, it’s the Food and Drug Administration and United States Department of Agriculture.  Farm Bureau  would have you believe it’s the Environmental Protection Agency.  They say that because they want to keep the corn and bean subsidies, and keep Big Foods control on the processing.  The profits for them are in the stock investment that the insurance company holds, not the risk targets policy holders are.

The latest story from VPAP is from the Progress Index covering a cook out in Dinwiddie.  For the Secretary of Agriculture to attend the event at Mr. Blaha’s farm,  it must be a very important event or at least one more opportunity  to get out the state /Farm Bureau propaganda.  Mr. Blaha received over a quarter million dollars from your tax dollars.  Parties like his are part of an elaborate, yet little known  system of tax dollars and awards systems from the state, “Century Farms” and industry “Farmer of the Year”  or  “Legislator of the Year.”  Mr. Blaha is also president of Dinwiddie Farm Bureau. 

This story  entitled  “Whose side is Farm Bureau on?”  gets it right when it comes to what the issue is.   Farm Bureau would like everyone to believe the EPA’s “overreach”  surrounding the Ditch the Rule issue is about normal water runoff through small ditches from the  small diversified family farm. But remember, one pound of organic soil holds four pounds of water, and big Ag does not farm organically.  

What it is really about is a CAFO, Confined Animal Feeding Operation.  When someone raises 200,000 birds at a time- 3 or more times a year-  you get a lot of poop… combine that with cocktails of toxic chemicals the animals are fed along with their corn, and the chemicals to sanitize the floors ( if indeed they do)  and you are ripe for nasty  RUNOFF situations that you don’t want near your children or your water sources.   You better believe CAFO’s are from where MRSA came, of course, it will be denied but just use common sense.

Lots of antibiotics used sub- therapeutically (not acute situations- only for feed gain and to keep the animals alive in such crowded conditions)  kill off all the weaker strains of bugs..leaving only the super bugs.  When cattle live in feedlots up to their knees in manure for months at a time gorging themselves on subsidized corn and beans  there is no grassy green carpet to slow or retain storm water.  IT RUNS OFF. 

The problem with the “Rule” regarding “Ditch the Rule”  campaign from Farm Bureau is that they are pulling small farmers into THEIR problems.  Small pasture-based  or very small feedlot operations that have natural buffer zones don’t  need onerous rules.  And of course, the small farm and ranch sell direct and know their customers the customers know them, they  even pet the animals.

Farm Bureau’s Poster girl for the Ditch the Rule campaign was based on Lois Alt’s problems with the EPA.   She is an eight house  contract grower with Pilgrims Pride.   Warehouse operator seems more in line with occupational description rather than farmer. She doesn’t even own the chickens.  And JBS, a south American company now owns 75% of the Pilgrims Pride.  JBS is the largest food processing company in the world, leading in sales.  So please note, this is really not about “small farmers,”  it’s about complete control of  the meat and poultry food supply.  Those small farmers are just the pawns in a very large game of Cargill, JBS, and the likes.


 Dave Harp


Another Farmer with a similar background of contract growing is Carole Morison,  but she  worked for Purdue.   She ran a chicken warehouse and decided that she wanted to raise birds right.  She believed the industrial model had too many problems including antibiotic resistance, culling of perfectly fine chickens that didn’t fit size requirements, farm log entry books that the company controlled, expensive upgrades for standardization. The final kicker was when the company wanted to  “upgrade” and deny any natural sunlight to the birds, ( they move less in the dark- using less energy). Purdue ended her contract when she refused. 

She raises chickens on her own terms now  and does not have to worry about the EPA.  She’s a real farmer.  Her chickens see  and feel real sunlight, their feet have touched grass and scratched for real worms. 

Back to the news story of the  Dinwiddie cookout where our illustrious Secretary of Agriculture spoke.  

Todd Haymore, the Virginia state secretary of agriculture and forestry, said making farming more profitable for farmers is an issue he is tackling in Richmond.

“The things we try to do from the governor’s office are to promote economic development in agriculture, recruiting new agribusinesses in the state, helping existing agribusinesses expand; also, global trade, move more product into the global marketplace,” Haymore said.

In terms of ecological impact of farming, Haymore said he was working to put less limitations on farmers.

“[We’ve been] working with EPA to be sure we’re not having onerous regulations placed on our farmers. Most farmers are good stewards of the land. They know if they take care of their land and water, it’s going to take care of them,”

– Progress-Index,  Aug 23, 2014

I  have worked directly with the department of Agriculture on the very topic of making farming more profitable.  When it comes to making farming more profitable for VA farmers, they are doing nothing meaningful.  The profit is in the processing.  And they will not allow farmers to process what they raise on their own land without their approval of course (SSOP, HACCP), and very expensive processing equipment.  That keeps small farmers out of the market place and is a profit protection measure for the large processing houses- who will then be bought up by the larger processing houses.

How can Secretary Haymore  say he is making farming more profitable, when under his watch Smithfield was sold to  Shuanghui, lock stock and barrel?  He knows contract growing keeps farmers down and profits up for the processors. Now it is under foreign control.  Howabout those Virginia farmers he is looking out after?

He does promote agribusiness to the state with taxpayer money- incentives to create jobs read my blog on Shamrock Farms  for details on how that works.  The state charges me taxes to give a subsidy to a processing house- to bring jobs- but denies me the ability to create my own job processing  the food I have raised on my own farm.

Wouldn’t we love to hear In terms of economic impact of farming, I am working to put less limitations on farmers  or we are working with the FDA and USDA to be sure we’re not having onerous regulations placed on our farmers.  Most farmers are good stewards of the food they raise and know how to process it into healthful nutritious products for their neighbors.  We want to rebuild our local economies and make them thrive.  I think that is what most people believe the Secretary of Agriculture’s mission is.

Secretary Haymore is right that farmers take care of their land, but I wouldn’t be so sure of warehouse operators.


More Headlines on the Food Freedom Task Force

by Bernadette Barber

The Food Freedom Task Force is making more headlines.  An excellent peice of  journalism covers the conception and background of why we need it.

“The real issue here is the definition of ‘potentially hazardous foods,’ and who controls that definition,” Barber  said.

Currently, this definition is controlled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, Barber said Virginia citizens should have the power to see for themselves how the livestock and produce they consume is made and choose what foods to buy based on that knowledge.

“We want to find foods that our neighbors make. We can inspect the kitchen ourselves,” Barber said. “All we want is to meet the person who is making our food and shake their hand and know that our dollars are staying within our community.”

Read the whole story here  and share it with your friends.

Please visit us on facebook and twitter!

Virginia Food Freedom is our Facebook Page.

Please join us on twitter @VAFoodFreedom in using the #foodfreedom hashtag.

Why Insurance Requirements Cannot be Tied to Food Legislation

by Bernadette Barber

Why insurance requirements cannot be tied to food legislation.

Choice is a fragile thing.  Government Requirements are not.  If a government requirement exists, then penalties for not having something are very real.  Who will require the proof and what sort of certification will suffice?  How much liability is required and who determines the limits? Will a government employee come to a home to see if the proof of insurance is posted on someone’s wall? Will a person have to register with the state to become a certified food preparer and mail in proof of insurance?  What will the penalties be if someone is caught without it?

Now on the Insurance end.  If a state requirement is standing and someone gets caught selling without the mandate then one has blatantly disregarded the law.  That serves as a black mark upon anyone and can make them either ineligible for insurance per company rules or so rated that they cannot afford the premium.  It’s rather exclusionary.  And when companies decide what is risky and what is not, they may not even cover a type of food processing that is very safe in the eyes of many.  They can decide an entire segment of the food chain is “not worth the risk” and in effect deny a whole line of foods.

We cannot leave our freedoms to small groups of people who have the ability to deny our right to choose.