In This Holiday Season, Wishing for the Best, Fearing the Worst--Assessing MI, CA, and WI Developments
I am of two minds about Thanksgiving. Like most everyone, I am grateful for the bounty and family time that are part of the holiday. But I always feel a sense of uneasiness about what follows, the assault on our senses by the advertising and retailing orgy we are all supposed to join.
I am of two minds, as well, about the heartening report from Ron Klein, following my Monday post about ginger, describing his positive experiences with the Michigan Department of Agriculture. This is the same MDA that conducted a sting operation on Richard Hebron last year for distributing raw milk, and just last month had a state police swat team ready to move on Greg Niewendorp for protesting the bovine tuberculosis testing program.
Has the MDA implemented sensitivity training to its inspectors to help it work more effectively with its constituents? I don’t want to sound overly cynical, since it would be wonderful if the agency had turned a new leaf and decided it really wanted to work in cooperation with farmers and support sustainable farming practices.
Then I look around and see the opposite happening in other places. In California, Mark McAfee reports that Organic Pastures will be filing suit against the state December 17, and shortly thereafter requesting a preliminary restraining order against enforcement of the 10-coliform-per-milliliter requirement for raw milk, passed by the legislature in October.
“We are trying everything politically possible to get a delay in the enforcement letter issued,” he states. “It is not possible to see or foresee what will happen here.” He also says he’s raised 90% of the $5,000 goal for legal expenses.
In Wisconsin, the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection continues its practice begun last May to make acquisition/renewal of a dairy license contingent on participation in the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). No premises registration, no dairy license. This is forcing some Amish farmers to abandon dairy farming because registration violates their religious teachings, reports Mary Zanoni, an advocate against NAIS who has been monitoring Wisconsin happenings closely.
Virginia sustainable farming practitioner Joel Salatin has an incisive take on where the struggle over farming practices and nutrition have led us. He sees a hijacking of “sound science” by government and corporate interests that then use consensus by establishment scientists to push anti-sustainable-farming and anti-consumer agendas. It’s an intriguing notion, and well worth reading.
The encouraging trend in all this is that there's a lot more information circulating about nutritional and health issues than just a few years ago. Information makes things more open, and openness tends to spark discussion, debate...and compromise. Sometimes, after an upheaval of the sort that occurred in Michigan with Richard Hebron, all sides begin to value the attractions of compromise. But likely there need to be unheavals in any number of other places as well before we see meaningful national movement in positive directions.