Category Archives: Meet the Lobbyist

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.

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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

The Tale of Two Massies

by Bernadette Barber

Two men with the same name, both cattlemen and both very outspoken on farm issues, couldn’t be more different,   Dr. Thomas “tractor-bucket” Massie, VA  and Congressman Thomas “Friend of the Farmer” Massie, KY.

Richmond, VA.

On January 20th, 2014 An obscure man in the back of the room stood up and identified himself as Thomas Massie to the members of the agricultural subcommittee.  He said he was a cattleman and veterinarian from Washington, VA , the 18th district.  He said he had  grave  concerns about the risks that  the Virginia Food Freedom Act (Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville)  would thrust upon an unsuspecting  and unprepared society that has such weakened  immune systems.

He admitted his own immune system,  by nature of his being reared on a farm and “eating a peck of dirt,” was far better than the average Virginian’s.  Continuing,  he said that since our society as a whole has been “drinking chlorinated water”  and living in a very protected climate controlled world, he just doesn’t think they have “the ability to stand those things”…pathogens.

With quiet steady implicative language, he instilled fear that the bill would allow for dangerous raw milk sales bringing pathogens from the cow to the high chair.  He even went so far as to say that if this law were to go in place “it would allow me…to slaughter an animal as I choose- this morning before breakfast- and stand by the side of the road, hang it on a loader bucket and ask if you’d like a piece”     The state credentialed veterinarian and industry high priest  is precisely the fear monger he said he wasn’t.  When one cannot get more graphic than a suggestive visual so insulting to real farmers who have integrity and independence,  it just may be the one thing people remember one by, “Tractor Bucket.”

Washington, DC

On  March 27th a bright promising  American introduced two bills to congress.  Thomas Massie identified himself as a grass-fed cattle producer.  He is a congressman from Garrison Kentucky, the 4th congressional district.  “I am familiar with some of the difficulties small farmers face when marketing fresh food directly to consumers.  Our bills would make it easier for families to buy wholesome milk directly from farmers by reversing the criminalization of dairy farmers who offer raw milk,” said Massie.  “The federal government should not punish farmers for providing customers the foods they want, and states should be free to set their own laws regulating food safety.”

The “Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014” (HR 4308) prevents  interference by the federal government with trade of unpasteurized, natural milk or milk products between states where distribution or sale of such products is already legal.

The “Milk Freedom Act of 2014” (HR 4307) provides relief to local farmers, small producers, and others who have been harassed, fined, and in some cases even prosecuted for the “crime” of distributing unpasteurized milk.  This bill would prohibit the federal government from interfering with the interstate traffic of raw milk products.

Massie stated, “Today, many people are paying more attention to the food they eat, what it contains, and how it is processed.  Raw milk, which has been with us for thousands of years, is making a comeback among these discerning consumers. Personal choices as basic as ‘what we feed our families’ should not be limited by the federal government.”

Congressman Thomas “Friend of the Farmer” Massie’s take on Food Freedom: “I support the Food Freedom Act and oppose the federal Food Safety and Modernization Act.  The Food Freedom Act declares that the food grown and produced in state, when sold in state are beyond the authority of Congress and its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce among states. Individuals and farmers should continue to have access to non-genetically modified seed and the right to consume non-pasteurized products at their discretion.  We don’t need the federal food police on our farms and in our kitchens.”

There couldn’t be two more polar opposites with the same name.  Too bad the congressman is not from Virginia, we sure need him here.