Food safety advocates have read the law wrong
An article published in The Tribune last week ("Proposal would exempt Utah food from federal regulation," Tribune, Feb. 5) highlighted a forthcoming piece of legislation that would exempt agriculture both produced and purchased within Utah from federal regulations. As state coordinator for the Utah Tenth Amendment Center, I have been working with Rep. Bill Wright, the bill's sponsor, to promote this cause and protect our local farmers.
Being the balanced article that it was, there were a few quotes from individuals opposing this proposed legislation. I found them to be both uninformed and flat out wrong. For example, David Plunkett, attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is quoted as saying that the legislation is "just popular politicking" and that Rep. Wright is "playing to people's fears and misrepresenting the facts."
The allegation that this bill is playing to fears or misrepresenting fact is flagrantly absurd. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is not about politicking, but about principle. Ask the average local farmer if they enjoy complying with dictates from federal bureaucrats. It's not politicking to them, either.
Rep. Wright's bill is simple in its scope, and solid in its logical foundation. The bill, which is under review by legislative attorneys, affirms a common sense, constitutional separation of political power for commercial transactions. The federal government was given the authority under the U.S. Constitution to regulate two types of commerce: interstate and foreign. Thus, commercial interactions that begin and end within a single state naturally, and under the 10th Amendment, fall to the states to regulate (or not). Though they believe otherwise, the federal government has no authority to touch this commerce. This bill affirms that obvious, constitutional position.
But, of course, that obvious position is not so obvious to all. The Tribune article also quotes Sheldon Bradshaw, former general counsel for the FDA. Bradshaw noted that "the FDA is of the view that it has the authority to regulate any food commodity," as if one federal bureau's legal opinion is all that matters. If I am "of the view" that I can act as I please, regardless of the law, does that make it so? This sounds more like a teenager's defiance than it does a constitutional, legal position.
The government does not exist to help us avoid potholes, expired milk, and Justin Bieber songs. Grown-ups can and should make their own informed decisions, taking into account their own safety and well being including and especially regarding the food they eat.
Though he decried Rep. Wright (and by extension, me) for fear-mongering, Plunkett "played to people's fears" himself, stating in the article: "I don't see why I should have to get sick so [a farmer] can have a livelihood."
If anybody thinks that the recent "Food Safety Act" is only about food safety, I challenge them to read it. I've read the full thing, and see plenty of warning signs.
Though limited exemptions are offered for small producers, the heavy, regulatory hand of government permeates the law. Farmers should be (and are) worried about the voluminous and costly mandates that will soon follow.
I have corresponded with hundreds of Utah farmers recently. From their responses I see broad support for this bill, especially across the political spectrum. Rep. Wright's bill simply makes sense. It's constitutional, it does nothing to threaten food safety, and it frees up local farmers (whose products are sold only within Utah) from the onerous impositions on their time, energy, and resources. Free from the federal regulatory burdens weighing upon them, they'll do what farmers do best: produce.
Connor Boyack is the state coordinator for the Utah Tenth Amendment Center.