Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An argument in favor of less government for better food...

The post is about the causes of perceived elitism in locally-produced small scale food, and adds to this outlook I have that the government will always favor the big guys at the expense of individual citizens. Food "safety" laws are far less about safety and far more about providing an advantage to the industry.

Is the Local Food Movement Elitist?

I [an individual farmer] can produce a gallon of milk from my barn for about $2.40 in hay, grain, amortized goat costs, and a tiny chunk of my mortgage payment....That's not too bad - my local Stewarts is advertising milk for 3.80 per gallon, so I could sell a few gallons to my neighbors and offset some feed costs, without costing them more, maybe even save them some pennies.

My friend Judy, who runs a dairy, observes that it costs $9 for her to produce a gallon of goat's milk. Now why the difference? Why does it cost her $9, which isn't even remotely competetive and me $2.40? Well the main difference is that she had to get set up to sell her goat's milk. She had to put in a bulk tank, build a barn to specifications, put in the second septic system between the milk room and the barn septic, add restroom facilities (even though her house bathroom is three steps away), and pay 16,000 dollars for pasteurizer.

As I'm adding up my costs, I don't have to count any of those things.

Of course, the big difference is that Judy *can* legally sell her milk, and I can't. In order to sell milk, I'd have to build the milking parlor, get the bulk tank, run power to the barn, and buy the 16K pasteurizer. Nevermind that for someone milking 6 does, this is ridiculous overkill - them's the rules. And look, my organic milk now costs $9 gallon - and gee, isn't that elitist, to think that ordinary people can afford organic *milk!?!*
The local food system is elitist in large part because it is forced to be. Others have documented the ways in which small producers are discriminated against - the way subsidies favor large producers, the way externalization of pollutants favors people who don't actually live where they produce their food. Joel Salatin in _Everything I Want to Do is Illegal_ carefully documents ways in which beaurocratic regulations have nothing to do with food safety - and indeed, the system that produces the 1,000 cow hamburger can't be said to be primarily focused on keeping eaters safe.