As has been demonstrated in the earlier articles corporate agriculture has little regard for the quality or safety of the product provided to the US consumer as long as it meets the minimum standards of the US government. It doesn't matter if it is of domestic origin or imported, if it passes even barely, it hits the shelves.
In comparison, independent producers in the US do their utmost to ensure the products they deliver meet the highest standards of quality and safety, even to the point of not selling some produce due to slight discoloration or other blemish that in no way affects safety, but areen't the "best" they can provide.
In order to ensure the survival of the US independent producer and thus the most secure link to true organic food production, we here in the rural areas need your help. Many people in the non-rural sector believe that what's on the shelf in the big box stores is the best available. They have never had the pleasure of experiencing the taste of a fresh egg or grass fed and grain finished beef that can melt in your mouth. They are used to the cookie cutter cuts of meat that yield a very uniform, but mostly ordinary, product that most consumers routinely serve their families for lack of knowledge of a superior product. You can provide that superior product to your families and help other consumers do the same by supporting the implementation of a few simple, but very necessary steps.
Step # 1 Fully implement Country of Origin Labeling This step will ensure that you have the right and ability to support US producers. While they may not all be organic and products corporate agriculture produces in the US will also qualify for this label, it is the first step in assisting your "country cousins" to stay in business. With this law fully implemented you can then narrow your search to find a local provider who will furnish the high quality safe product we all seek to serve our families.
Step # 2 Personally Oppose and Urge Your COngressmen and Senators to Oppose Mandatory NAIS This costly, unnecessary and intrusive law does not help food safety, but does add a huge burden to the ability of the independent producer to provide the products you want at an affordable price. M-NAIS is an Orwellian scheme to drive independent producers out of business with the threat of audits and the cost of tagging each animal and reporting its movements. (Corporate agriculture can use one number for an entire shipment regardless of the number of animals in that shipment. Since these animals never move, but are kept in a single location there is no need to report movement or experience audits.) Those of us in the rural community do not have the clout it takes to sway Congress, but you who dwell in the urban centers do. Please come to our aid and speak up before it is too late. This issue is not about animal health, but control of the land and production facilities used by the independents. Please investigate this ID system on your own and you will find it presents many Constitutional challenges which evaporate if the producer would "volunteer" to participate on their own. They "volunteer" when they sign up for "free" money in the EQUIP program that helps cost share in new fencing or land improvements, or the CRP (the program that idles land for conservation purposes) or any other federal program where the producer receives payments from the federal government. All of these programs are now encouraging producers to sign up for a premisis number to participate in any of the programs. Many unwittingly do. Many non-rural people have experienced this for themselves when they volunteered for another very popular federal program, voluntary income tax payment through the IRS. Income tax payment is totally voluntary until you participate once, then you are bound to participate for the rest of your life or until the program is retired by Congress (Right ! ), after all you "volunteered." NAIS is like that in that once the land is registered, the owner whether it is the individual who signed up originally or a subsequent purchaser of the land agrees to participate in the ID program or any future program created by Congress or the USDA.
Step # 3 Urge Congress to Authorize the Direct Sale of Food Products From the Independent Producers By taking this step, you will assist thousand of local producers to provide you, the ultimate consumer, with the healthiest, most wholesome, and tastiest products possible at the lowest cost. Without your, the ultimate consumers, help, we in the rural sector are subject to an immense array of costly and time consuming regulations that provide very little safety to the food supply, but are often used to put conscientious concerned producers out of business for non-compliance. Your local producer will furnish you with the highest quality product because 1) they want you to come back 2) they take pride in furnishing you the best food you have ever eaten, and 3) they would want no less for their families.
Step # 4 Urge Congress and Animal Rights Groups to Request a Resumption of Horse Slaughter in the US Last year, several states and the federal government banned horse slaughter in the US. This was brought about by a clever argument from the animal rights community who convinced non-rural citizens to ask for this prohibition. After all, horses, like those made famous on the TV shows "Fury," My Friend Flicka," and even "Mr. Ed" are the big ole, brown eyed family pets. How could anyone allow them to go for slaughter for human consumption. How barbaric! While I don't eat horse flesh or recommend it to you, in Eastern Europe, they do. Horses make a valuable contribution to recreation and agriculture in the US and around the world. However, when they reach the end of their productive life span (around 20+ years) something must be done with them. In the past, the older horses were sold into the food chain with the owner being properly compensated for his private property and HUMANELY processed. This small payment received by the owner is a very low rebate on the thousands of dollars spent on the horse's care during its life, but it is enough to ensure the owner does not let the animal starve or be abandoned into the wild, or local roadway. One of the unintended consequences of this so called compassionate law was that the only place left to slaughter the horses is now Mexico, which continues to supply the same European market with US horse flesh. I don't believe I have to delineate the differrences in humane standards in the US vs Mexico. The current effort to make it a felony to transport or sell for transport horses destined for slaughter in Mexico will only make the problem worse. Once the Mexican source is gone, most rural owners of horses (the largest share of owners) will not pay the $200-$500 to have a veterinarian euthanize the animal or the additional fee to bury the critter. They will simply open the gate, take the halter off, slap the horse on the rear and wish it well. From there it will either starve to death as it is too old to graze any longer, or be involved in a traffic accident that could result in the death of a human as well as the horse. Which is more humane, processing at a facility overseen by regulators and closely watched by animal rights groups here in the US or abandonment to starvation or traffic accidents? If you don't think this is happening today, check with your local animal shelter.
Step # 5 Encourage Your Friends and Neighbors to Take Actions 1-4 to Help Independent Rural Agriculture It will only be through the assistance of the non-rural sector that we independent producers can possibly survive. The huge weight of government regulations constantly attempts to put the independent producer out of business. It will only be from the aid of you, the consuming sector of the US economy speaking on our behalf that we can even have a glimmer of hope in persuading Congress to take the steps necessary to allow us to continue to provide you with the products you want. Without your help, and your help now, we will not survive. Once we are gone, you will be at the mercy of corporate agriculture and international importers. We are all in this together people and I am begging for your help now.
Next time a listing of some of the many regulations we face and concluding remarks on the series.