Category Archives: Agricultural Industrial Complex

I carried your voice

By Bernadette Barber www.virginiafooedfreedom.org

Dear friends, I represented your voice in the House Agriculture Subcommittee in Richmond, VA  on  Monday, February 2nd, 2015, whichVa Captial was Chaired by Delegate Danny Marshall, (R-14).  House Bill 1290   was introduced by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58).  It is the third time the Food Freedom Act has been introduced in the General Assembly. Delegate Marshall made it clear he knows the issue and did not want more time on it. It was videotaped so the people can see the proceedings and how each member considered the bill, what questions were asked by those members and how they voted.

When Delegate Bell introduced the bill, he made the case that although most everyone shops at major grocery stores, many people would like the opportunity to purchase directly from a food artisan and we should be able to make that responsible decision. He made three points. One was that small producers should not be impeded by over burdensome regulation, two that consumers should have the right to choose via caveat emptor, and three, Virginia was founded on small farms who sold  locally.

Dwayne McIntyre, farmer, father of five and chairman of Russell county republican party was the first speaker. He stated that his testimony last year was on liberty. This year he chose common sense as a theme and used examples of common food items that are currently purchased that are deemed as potentially dangerous, but still available for sale requiring only a label. Among those items were steaks, alcoholic beverages, tobacco, peanut butter, and honey. He mentioned all his children were raised on raw milk.

I spoke next and I addressed the issues of raw milk and the federal meat inspection program’s cooperative agreement with the state. Knowing the VA chapter of the American Academy of Pediatric Association’s lobbyist would bring up misinformation about raw milk, I shared the story of the healing of my own son, who for the first four years of his life was heavily medicated for allergies and spent too many times in the emergency room for febrile seizures. When he was four years old, I took his health into my own hands and got him on raw milk and he since has been allergy free for four years, off all medication, not since been to a hospital or even a doctor. He is that healthy.

The final point I made addressed the false claim I knew would be made by the opposition – that the passage  of the food freedom act would  jeopardize the cooperative agreement the state has with the USDA on the Federal Meat  Inspection Program. Since meat processing is  controlled by the federal government, all slaughter and primary processing are done in inspected facilities. Foods being made for sale in home kitchens would have to have meat that came from an inspected facility.

Bernedette and Holder

Bernadette and Holder Trumbo

The next person that was allowed to speak was Holder Trumbo, a supervisor from  Fauquier County.  He brought with him a resolution passed by the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors in support of the Food Freedom Act. He made an excellent appeal for the small producer, even though he owns a grocery store.  He knows the Food Freedom Act will benefit all farmers and citizens.

Industry hacks

Those who oppose your food freedom. They look like a happy bunch don’t they?

Farm Bureau’s lobbyist,  Lindsay Reames, VA Agribusiness Council’s  Brad Copenhaver and  Virginia State Dairymen’s Association’s Eric Paulson  all spoke in opposition to the bill.  The major objection was the raw milk.  Lindsay Reames made the point that it was because of Farm Bureau that the local food movement exists.  She used the wrong causation, it was from a rejection of the  licensed,  industrially processed globalized  foods that farm bureau promotes, that the local foods movement  has sprung.

Thomas Massie,  a representative for Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, who could not argue the meat inspection issue, said he had concerns about the way animals were raised. Dressed in a white lab coat,  Dr. Bartle, a member of the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics  spoke against the bill citing  CDC statistics. After testimony was heard, Del. Charles Poindexter, (R-09) made a motion to table the bill, Del. Barry Knight (R-81) seconded the motion. Del. Will Morefield (R-03) was the only delegate to object to the tabling (killing) of the bill.

The next bill of Food Freedom interest was the Three Cow exemption, hb1461, also known as the Raw Milk bill.  Del Rick Morris (R-64)  introduced it. He spoke of how in 1948 VA code allowed for a three cow exemption so farmers could sell direct. In 1950 when the code was rewritten, the exemption was omitted.  As a part of his testimony, Rick drank a glass of Raw milk provided by his constituent Micah Beachy. He

Del. Morris and Micah Beachy

Del. Morris and Micah Beachy

shared that when he was a child, he would ride his bike to the neighboring dairy farm, fill a jug from the tank and leave a quarter in return.

Micah Beachy was the first to speak. He passed out folders to each delegate that held statistical information and studies on raw milk. He had brought half pint jars of raw milk from his own cow that were carefully labeled and gave one to each member of the subcommittee.  He also brought a half gallon jar of it to share with the crowd which was poured into cups, passed around  and drank during the meeting.  He specifically offered some to Eric Paulson, who is known for not trusting the raw milk from his own dairy’s bulk tank.

Mr. Beachy cited many statistics and studies in favor of raw milk.  He brought up the fact that he is a member of Farm Bureau and that Farm Bureau does not speak for him and the commercial dairy farmers he knows about this issue. He also said that we are in a peaceful food revolution that this issue is not going away.

Christine Solem, a twenty-five-year veteran of the raw milk and local foods movement was brief in her testimony in favor of the bill. She said that although she was no longer milking and seeking to sell, she was 71 years old and seeking to find good raw milk to keep her bone density and longevity.

Joanna Moyer spoke next and was quite eloquent in her testimony, also reiterating the position that although she is a member of Farm Bureau, they do not speak for her on this issue. Joanna is the milkmaid in her family and wants to be an entrepreneur and stay on the farm, making artisan dairy foods. She stated that historically her mountainous region of VA which is very favorable to grazing animals and dairy farming was a lucrative sideline for many diversified farms and helped families keep cash flow in hard times.

Eric Paulson of the Virginia State Dairymen’s Association  spoke against the bill.  He claimed  to the House Subcommittee on Agriculture stating  breaking news on the CDC website on reported deaths from raw milk.  Upon further investigation, there were none.

Again, after testimony, Del.  Charles Poindexter, (R-09) made a motion to table the bill, and Del. Barry Knight (R-81) seconded the motion. Del. Will Morefield ( R-03) was the only delegate to object to the tabling of the bill.

A video of the hearing  can be seen here on our youtube channel http://bit.ly/1zfX4Nv

Please stay tuned for a Food Policy Legislative Workshop that will be held this summer. Thank you so much for following this issue and promoting Food Freedom.


Bernadette Barber and her husband Gary own and operate Tall Trees Farm in the Northern Neck. They view themselves as stewards of God’s green earth and conduct their farm in that light. Following the design of creation their cattle graze in lush verdant pastures; their hogs roam freely in the woods; their chickens and turkeys chase bugs and aerate the soil. She picked up her love for farming from her father who beat leukemia with an organic garden.

Farm Bureau Is Bad People

By Matthew French
Likely in life you have met a person who, at first, seemed to be a great individual. You hung out with them, you had them over to dinner, you even took in a baseball game together. When times got tough for them you helped them out a little. But the more you were around them something nagged at you. Somewhere in the back of your mind you knew something wasn’t right. Over time, it was becoming clear that they weren’t, as we say, good people.

As I get older, and I hope a little wiser, I like to think I’m getting better at spotting the bad eggs of this world earlier. It’s not easy though, and I still sometimes need the help of another pair of eyes. Someone who has seen the not so pretty side of

How Farm Bureau works

How Farm Bureau works

someone.

Farm Bureau is one of those bad eggs. Growing up in an agricultural community Farm Bureau is part of it through and through. Every month a bill comes from them. Every month a magazine shows up in the mailbox. Every year you attend the annual banquet. It becomes ingrained in you that Farm Bureau is on the side of small farmers, just like us, all across the state.
But Farm Bureau is anything but for the small farmer and definitely not on the side of the consumer. They have stood in the way of many different bills that would have made it easier for farmers to do business. For a long time, they stood in the way of the Boneta Bill which protected farmers property rights.
No, Farm Bureau is not a friend of the small direct to consumer farm.
Lately, their target has been the Virginia Food Freedom Act. Last year they actively lobbied against the bill. On the day of the vote in the subcommittee, they stood with the delegation of opposition. Yes, they stood with those opposed to farmers being able to produce and sell more food to their customers.
One of those that spoke in opposition said that if that bill had passed that farmers would be slaughtering their cattle on the side of the road, hanging them from front loaders, and selling the cuts to people as they passed by. Farm Bureau aligned themselves with people who believe that farmers are so stupid that they don’t even understand basic food safety and that consumers are so stupid that they would buy from stupid farmers.
That’s right, Farm Bureau thinks farmers are stupid. Some friend, right?
But hold on it gets better. Last year my father attended the annual Farm Bureau Banquet. After all the cursory “look at how great Farm Bureau is” speeches and bragging about the legislation that they helped pass (one of which was the Boneta Bill), my father cornered the state Farm Bureau representative and asked him a few questions. One of the questions he asked was how come Farm Bureau was not supporting the Virginia Food Freedom Act. Would you believe he told my dad they were supporting it!
This was news to us. They have been one of our biggest detractors. Earlier last year they basically walked out of the Food Freedom Taskforce meetings without even making an offer. So now they are for the bill?
After many, many, phone calls, we were informed that the representative had misspoken. I personally believe this was a continuation of the deception they spin that they are for the small farmer.
If you are a member you had better be a good little submissive one. Don’t fall too far out of lock step or you may find yourself looking for insurance. I have heard several stories from across the state of farmers losing their insurance for asking questions at Farm Bureau meetings. And other stories of farmers losing their coverage for selling direct to consumers after years of coverage through Farm Bureau (Half way down the post is where they mention losing coverage https://www.facebook.com/InTheoryFarm/posts/894904803871699 ).
It took me some time, but I realized that Farm Bureau was not my friend. They are not on my side. No, my friends, Farm Bureau is not on the side of small farmers.
They are bad people.

Matthew French is a farmer in southwest Virginia. He and his family operate their 200-year old farm where they raise pastured poultry, free-range pigs, grass-fed lamb and a variety of vegetables. You can find more from him at www.thefrenchfamilyfarm.com

GMO’s Roasting on an Open Fire…

By Dwayne McIntyre

For the past few days, I have caught wind of a Washington Post article circulating around the social media circles.  Its title, Unearthed: Thanks to science we may see the rebirth of the American Chestnut. Its subheading, “Scientists are breeding a blight resistant variety, and its everything other GMOs aren’t.”  I have seen a lot

By wwarby

By wwarby

of excitement from fellow farmers, naturalists and normally anti-GMO advocates expressing their pleasure for such good news, and as the article articulates, there is such a romantic idea of bringing back the great American chestnut.

For those who don’t already know, the American chestnut tree was a prolific timber and food tree up until the early 1900’s and was wiped out almost completely by a blight that came here on the more inferior Chinese chestnut tree we tried to introduce to our country.  All the chestnuts you eat today are from those trees from China.  The article cites 3-4 billion trees gone overnight, which is an apocalyptic tragedy comparable to that of the Truffula trees, so it’s easy to just guess how devastating this loss was.

Immediately it feels important to point out that the article is talking about GMO chestnut trees, more specifically chestnut genomes genetically modified with genes from wheat.  Sounds harmless, right?  At least it’s not spliced with toxic pesticides and herbicides.

The immediate curiosity that comes to mind is, are we against GMOs because they are unnatural and potentially dangerous in the long term, or is it just when its spliced with things foreign to our palette and the lack of any real long term research isn’t really as important when “it’s everything other GMOs aren’t? “

Regardless the writer of this article opens up with a great walk down memory lane of what it was like back when America reveled in the bounty of such a wonderful natural blessing of an innate food supply, like the chestnut, available to anyone and everyone.  I even have to agree, our fore generations had quite a blessed abundance from these trees.  The idea of having again “a readily available supply of high-quality, good-tasting food, growing out there in the woods contributing to a wholesome, healthful diet” makes me want to believe that this new Frankenstein genome will deliver. Can it? Will these scientists, the writer thinks we need to thank, deliver us this lost Promised Land once again?

First off it’s GMO, so the nutritional stats and romance with real actual chestnuts will not be what we’re going to get from the GMO version. I can’t name one GMO variety of anything that is nutritionally equal or superior to its real counterpart.  In fact, GMO foods are so synthetically grown (denser plots, sprayed toxins, liquid sewage fertilizer, etc.) they usually don’t carry any nutritional value at all. Sure we might see a lot of unaffordable furniture stores popping up everywhere with a lot of nice product putting ma and pa out of business, but cheap chestnuts from the store, probably in boxes in every aisle, might not be as romantic as pen and paper can delude.

Take corn for instance.  Genetically modified with the intent of saving a starving world with an abundance of good healthy food, yet almost immediately became the most subsidized, overabundant, nutritionally empty Franken food out there, in every aisle of the supermarket, in almost every box, driven by a profit model that has put virtually 75%, if not more, of all small farms out of business.  But don’t worry, as the article suggests, the chestnut trees will be different.  We will have our healthy utopia once again.

Its total naivety to think that designer GMO Chestnuts aren’t going to be exploited for profit, especially after explaining in great detail in the article how exquisite chestnut timber is and how one mature tree produces a half a ton of nuts. That sounds like an exact recipe for exploitation.  The timber and food markets will capitalize on its overabundant output levels which will launch demands for the trees way above the Johnny Appleseed levels of frolicking in the forests and repopulating the countryside so all the folks of the land can have their fill of free “healthy” food.   So easy we buy the dream, cast all our convictions aside, and pretend this new American wheatnut tree won’t come with a patent.

Honestly, the more I think about this article the more I think the American chestnut is the mascot for the great American Tragedy.

America was the great Promised Land loaded with a bounty of blessings, such as the innate food supply described in this article, and we wiped it out by means of the cheaper more inferior versions from China.  I suggest letting the American chestnut rest in peace and reflect upon its death for wisdom on how to change our industrial habits for the better and give rebirth to the great America that once was.  But that’s just me.

I suppose with Christmas right around the corner though it’s just the right time to believe in Monsanto Clause and sit around the fireplace roasting great cheer to his name.

 

GMO’s roasting on an open fire

Blood flow skipping all your toes

Your funeral dirge being sung by a choir

And folks all dressed in hospital clothes

Everyone has a prescription and a pharmacist

Helps to make the food digest

Tiny tots with their bellies full

Will find it hard to want real food

 

They know that Monsanto’s on his way

He’s loaded lots of trees and chestnuts on his sleigh

And every mother’s child is a guinea pig

To the Franken food giants who are raking it in

 

So I’m offering this simple phrase

If you want to live to ninety-two

Although it’ll never be told by the industry goons

“Health comes from real food”


Dwayne McIntyre is a small family farmer from Russell County Virginia who raises organic free ranged children with his wife Stacey. Together his family produces grass-fed beef and pastured poultry for sale at the Abingdon Farmers Market.  He is also the chairman of the Russell County Republican Party and is a strong advocate for Virginia Food Freedom.

www.virginiafoodfreedom.org

The Sham of Shamrock Dairy, The Shame of VA Economic Development Partnership

by Bernadette Barber

The state of Virginia has brought an Arizona- based “family-owned” Dairy to Augusta County.  Shamrock Dairy is a 10,000 cow CAFO operation ( Cow Warehouse) in the desert of Arizona. It is indeed family owned, but how many family dairy farms do you know of that could build a 50 million dollar processing plant? Shamrock’s sham is that it perpetuates the image of what Americans perceive a family dairy might be- maybe a quaint independent operation with green fields, open space, cows contently chewing their cud in dappled sunshiney pastures?  Little children dashing about while siblings do farm chores?Shamrock-Dairy

No, a 10,000 cow dairy in the desert is neither natural nor sustainable.  It is an industrial  ( not familial) operation.  How many family members run day to day milking? Do they push a button, is it purely robotic?  An operation like that also eats alot of taxpayer subsidies. and produces food like substance, that is far inferior to real, raw, unpasteurized, unhomogenized locally purchased milk.

Unbeknownst to many Virginians, they unluckily footed the bill to bring Shamrock Dairy here. Virginia Economic Development Partnership gave both Augusta County and the Shenandoah Valley Partnership $250,000.00 to broker the deal with Shamrock Dairy. Governor McDonnell also gave to  Shamrock another $50,000 from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Fund.    A bill creating that fund was introduced by both  Del. Steve Landes and Senator Bill Stanley and passed in 2012.  Its purpose was to  lure Big Agricultural  processing  operations to VA if they would use  atleast 30% of “Virginia Grown” product.  Shamrock is also eligible to recieve Road Access Funding from the Department of Transportation.    The Virginia Jobs Investment Program, will provide funding and will service the company’s training and re-training activities.  Shamrock has and will recieve much more than $300,000 from the Virginia taxpayer- who is denied the ability to process and sell their own dairy products.

The shame therein of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, whose purpose is to create jobs- is that they incentivize foreign or alien companies ( those not in VA) to build, with taxpayers money.  When they tout  “Virginia is open for Business”  they only mean big business, because the agricultural food processing field is so entrenched in red tape and fed tape-Virginia couldn’t even feed herself nutritiously if she wanted.  The fact is, Virginia does want to feed herself and keep the profits thereof. One only need to see the burgeoning presence of farmers markets, cow share operations, and food buying clubs.   The problem and shame of the VEDP is that it should be looking into allowing VA, herself, to create her own independent jobs by examining the costly burdensome regulations that prevent the opportunity. Legislators need to give farmers and families the freedom to process their own foods to sell direct to their neighbors and communities.  Small scale production is very safe. And for over 400 years up until less than 40 years ago, its what sustained her.

There are thousands of Virginians who would joyfully and safely run a family dairy and sell direct to their customers, if it were legal.  But Virginia state law does not allow for the direct sale of “raw” milk.  It must be sold to a licensed processor, such as Shamrock Dairy.

Next time you see “welcome news of  agricultural jobs creation”, know that it is a sham, because it is quite possible your tax dollars paid dearly for it, and a shame that legislators deny you the legal framework to create your own job, profiting from your own labor on the farm.