Monday, November 19, 2007

The Nation and the Contract Rights of Farmers

I don't not expect to find opposition to government regulations in The Nation, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the article Old McDonald Had a Farm...and He Got Arrested? by David E. Gumpert. This is in a somewhat similar vein as Rational Jenn's recent post about regulatory opposition to raw milk in Georgia, but here the issue is meat at "Greg Niewendorp's 160-acre farm outside East Jordan, in the north of Michigan's lower peninsula":
Last February, he refused to subject his cattle to a mandatory state program to test cattle in his region of Michigan for bovine tuberculosis--a program he argues, among other things, is unnecessary because he distributes his beef privately to people who trust his animal-raising techniques, but which the state insists is essential to ensure the beef isn't tainted.

The state immediately slapped a quarantine on his farm, prohibiting the movement of animals onto or off the property. Then, in August, an MDA inspector arrived, escorted by two Michigan State Police officers, and attempted to convince Niewendorp to have his cattle tested by a vet waiting down the road. Niewendorp angrily ordered the inspector and police off his property, telling them that, without a search warrant, they were trespassers.

Finally, in early October, a team of MDA inspectors and vets arrived again, this time with a search warrant and two sheriff's deputies--and backed up by a half-dozen state trooper SWAT team members and three emergency medical vehicles down the road.

Niewendorp is convinced that "they would have liked to have killed me," but this time he didn't resist, so the vets did their deed and left. All the tests came back negative and the state lifted its quarantine last month.
Of course, the article later explains the motivations of the regulators as partly wishing to protect "corporate interests." Regardless, the point made is valid. As long as no force or fraud is involved, producers and consumers should be free to contract on such sales.

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