Lynn Swearingen (c) copyright 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


I received a tip this morning with a curious request “Can you make an anti-NIB of Utah’s HB 365”.  I tried, I really did. The Title of this Bill looked very promising:

Federal Regulation of Local Agricultural Products

As one can see from the PDF there is no text, although apparently an Attorney (Peter Asplund) was paid to draft HB 365.

2       PRODUCTS
5      Chief Sponsor: Bill Wright
6      Senate Sponsor: ____________


Not content with a title only, I did a bit of looking about and discovered this little snippet from Lexology:

Utah State Representative Bill Wright (R-Holden) has reportedly introduced legislation (H.B. 365) that would exempt from federal regulation all foods grown and consumed within the state’s borders.

Finally I discovered a bit more about HB 365 and yes, I believe this should be an anti-NIB – something supported by Utah citizens.

Proposal would exempt Utah food from federal regulation

But now he fears farming is in jeopardy, threatened by the heavy hand of federal regulations that could drive farmers out of business and jeopardize Utah’s food supply.

So in the latest bid to flex the state’s muscle, Wright is proposing legislation that would exempt food grown and consumed entirely within the state from any federal regulation.

“Within the state, it’s state’s rights. We already have regulations over those items,” Wright said in an interview. “We function well now. We don’t think they have a right or authority to regulate those items that are not interstate commerce, as long as they’re grown within the state, packaged in the state and remain in the state.”

The bill is in large part a response to the Food Safety Act, which Congress passed late last year and, Wright said, could greatly expand the Food and Drug Administration’s powers and subject all sorts of agriculture — from farmers markets to a person’s garden — to new, onerous federal rules.

and how refreshing is this?

Wright says that, in his experience, federal regulators are more heavy-handed and intent on issuing fines, compared to state regulators who are more willing to work with farmers.

“They regulate by intimidation and extortion and threatening everybody,” he said.

Of course he has his detractors at this point. Mr. David Plunkett (Center for Science in the Public Interest) gave his $2 worth (marked up from 2 cents due to the non-inflationary period we live in):

“The premise is just popular politicking. This is somebody who’s playing to people’s fears and misrepresenting the facts and doing it for political purposes,” said Plunkett, whose group recently gave Utah a “D” grade for its ability to detect food-borne disease outbreaks.

Why is the name Plunkett ringing a bell?  S 510 had him hanging out at various blogs and MSM stories making comments such as the following:

The commentor above is confusing the terms “healthy” and “safety.” When consumers make the commendable choice to buy fresh, healthy and local foods they have an expectation that the food will also be “safe” from microbial contamination. Bacteria don’t check to see if the vegetables are growing on a small farm or an industrial farm. Bad practices that can lead to bacterial contamination don’t just happen on big farms. The fact that it is harder to identify the source of a foodborne illness when it affects a handful of people in one state, doesn’t make local food “safer.”

S. 510 is a good bill that balances the need to protect public health with the desire to encourage healthy eating habits. It will give all farmers (big and small) guidance on safe practices that protect their customers against foodborne disease. Practicing safety is something every farmer should be doing anyway, so it is hard to understand how the bill imposes a burden on small farms as some have claimed. Certainly, the charge that Senators have not listened to small farmers is unfair and uninformed. Many of the Senate sponsors are from rural, small-farm states and have worked for years on issues important to sustainable and organic farming. They have listened and because of concerns voiced by the small-farm community the bill has been amended several times since its introduction. These changes protect small, sustainable and organic farming from unintended consequences without surrendering the public health protection that is the cornerstone and purpose of S. 510. FDA will only have authority to write safety standards for fruits and vegetables that are known to carry a risk of foodborne disease if improperly handled during growing and harvesting. Those standards are to be science-based and the minimum necessary to protect against contamination. FDA has to take the needs and practices of small and organic farming into account when writing farm safety standards. The preference for state oversight to continue as the best way to ensure local farms are practing safety is preserved. On-farm recordkeeping is limited to records that farms will keep anyway as a matter of good business practices. Most importantly, the bill provides a mechanism for States to apply for variances from the standards when practices or conditions in the State make it difficult to meet the FDA issued standard.

Opponents have charged that S. 510 will create a one-size fits all regulation for farm production. If you read the bill, you will see that claim — while it might have held some water when the bill was introduced — is no longer true. The bill will help all farms (big and small, industrial and sustainable) practice safety. In doing so, S. 510 will ensure that when consumers make the wise choice to buy fresh, healthy and local food, they can rest assured it is also “safe” for them to eat.

Wow! The only thing Plunkett didn’t throw in was the cure for cancer, a global warming panacea, and next weeks lotto numbers. Although according to Reason Magazine:

“The typical CSPI report takes one or two plausible concerns, blows them way out of proportion, and throws in several dangers that are trivial, unlikely, or highly speculative, all in an effort to scare people into the one course of action CSPI knows to be right.”

— Jacob Sullum, writing in Reason magazine, June 2003
Ouch. But surely with our “Public Interest” at heart those places that track the actions of groups like CSPI would know if something just wasn’t quite right – wouldn’t they?

CSPI complains about so many foods and beverages that it’s hard to think of anything that has escaped their wrath. Even so, the group has a special animus towards a few common foods. CSPI co-founder Michael Jacobson considers caffeine such a blight on civilization that he complains about people socializing over coffee. Unsurprisingly, he suggests that Americans patronize a “carrot juice house” instead. CSPI’s in-house food policies are so strict that Jacobson once reportedly intended to get rid of the office coffee machine—until one-third of his 60 employees threatened to quit.

CSPI also has a bias against meat and dairy. Jacobson, himself a vegetarian, wrote in an issue of CSPI’s Nutrition Action Healthletter that proper nutrition “means eating a more plant-based diet … It means getting your fats from plants (vegetable oils and nuts) and fish, not animals (meats, milk cheese, and ice cream).” In keeping with his personal vegetarianism, Jacobson quietly sits on the advisory board of the “Great American Meatout,” an annual event operated by the animal rights zealots at the Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM). Alcohol, even when consumed in moderation, is perhaps CSPI’s most hated product. The group’s Healthletter has asserted that “the last thing the world needs is more drinkers, even moderate ones.” CSPI wants hefty increases in beer taxes, increased restrictions on adult-beverage marketing, and even poster-sized warning labels placed in restaurants. George Hacker, who leads CSPI’s anti-alcohol effort, has accused winemakers of “hawking America’s costliest and most devastating drug.”

Here are a few more professional opinions:

Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, argues that CSPI’s “obsession” with a low-fat diet reflects “a paternalistic idea that the public is not smart enough to distinguish between types of fat.” Food critic Robert Shoffner puts it more directly when he describes CSPI’s approach this way: “People are children and have to be protected by Big Brother or Big Nanny from the awful free-market predators … That’s what drives these people—a desire for control of other people’s lives.”

I’d have to agree that this is an anti-NIBs worthy of Utah Citizens involvement.  If you think so, take up a glass of coffee  wine carrot juice and contact Representative Bill Wright. You might thank him for introducing something that will confirm Utah’s State Sovereignty. Ask him to release the text of the Bill so we can all enjoy this joyous moment!  After the text is released, comment here so we may all review – Citizens of Utah can then decide if this is a NIB (or anti-NIB) worth contacting their legislators for a Yea or Nay vote.

After all – as public citizens we actually “read the bills” without needing some resolution to encourage it or some crazy 72 hour proposal to do so.