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Paul-Martin Griepentrog's 150-acre family farm includes 60 Ile de France ewes, 40 Limousin cattle and free ranging yard chickens, peacocks and goats. He cultivates about two acres of vegetables grown naturally, the old-fashioned way. He has sold his produce at markets across the state.
Well, it's Monday night and I've had another long day on the farm. Seems the weather forecaster got things wrong again, with predictions of light scattered frost that turned into a hard freeze. That's farming for you.
You see, I'm the invisible spirit behind the Shady Knoll Farm's stand at the Hodag Farmers Market. If I'm not farming, I spend my time advocating for the interests of small farmers.
There is a world of difference between the concerns of small, family farms like mine and large corporate operations, and yet the public and the government often lump us together or even worse: place additional restrictions, making my personal, hands-on business very difficult.
You may have heard about "traceability" lately in the news and how this will help with everything from disease control, to salmonella in tomatoes (or was it peppers, or was it cilantro)?
The real problem for me is that my farm's focus is in producing food locally, but the laws are designed for giant, impersonal businesses that deliver food across the globe.
To compound the problem, the USDA and FDA have cut their inspectors to 10 percent of what they were over the last 10 years. Less than one per cent of all imported food gets inspected, as a result.
The laws currently being discussed to provide "traceability" in produce would require me to record every harvest of every fruit or vegetable, every time, and keep the records for at least two years. The time wasted would be crippling.
Even worse is the proposed National Animal Identification System (NAIS). For example, if any of my free-running hens were to hatch out a brood of chicks, I would have to implant microchips, record the birth and chip numbers all within 48 hours or be subjected to penalties starting at $5,000. The big corporate outfits, however, would only need one number for an entire lot of animals.
Fortunately, it hasn't been put into effect yet but the cooperative agreement (between the state and the federal government and signed by the Wisconsin State Veterinarian), would, in the execution of the contract, implement the USDA's business plan. The USDA pays states based on the percentage of premises registered, and yet, full implementation would find me out of business.
In other words folks, what Edgar Salsbury, a former state food inspector, said rings more true today than ever before. At our first meeting I asked him, "Which part of the law applied to food processing?" He replied, "The part that screws the little guy and lets the big guys get away with murder."
What's to be done? First call your state legislators and go on record as opposing the current D.A.T.C.P. (Department of Agriculture, Trade, & Consumer Protection) proposals. Insist that Mandatory Premise Registration be revoked and in its place a voluntary registration with a workable opt-out clause. Wisconsin is one of three states with mandatory premise registration.
For more information on the subject go to:
These will get you started. Yes, I do this farming thing for a living, but, the bottom line is that it is your food security that is at stake. You have the right to know that what you are putting in your body, and, that what you're serving to your family is safe and healthful and that's what small farmers like me are trying to produce.
Well, supper's ready and I gotta go.