In a Pickle Over Regulations

 

On my first trip to DC, an immigrant cabbie pointed out buildings to college-aged me. As he highlighted the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and every other building I already knew, we drove by an imposing monolith near the mall. “What’s that?” I asked. “Oh, that’s the Department of Agriculture,” he said.

As it turned out, it was just the south building of the USDA, the largest office building in the world until the Pentagon was built. Next door is the USDA’s massive Jamie L. Whitten Building, which covers four acres by itself. What on earth do they do in there? I wondered.

Well, now I know. Over the weekend, I read just one of their regulations — 23 pages dedicated to pickles. Your tax dollars paid bureaucrats to mandate that a “small gherkin” must be less than 2.4 cm in diameter, whereas a “large gherkin” can have a diameter of up to 2.7 cm.

After countless meetings with experts, the feds determined that a “Nubbin is a misshapen pickle that is not cylindrical in form, is short and stubby, or is not well developed.” They even include helpful diagrams illustrating allowable pickle curvature:

All of this silliness is just a tiny part of the gargantuan CFR:

The Code of Federal Regulations comprises every rule and reg ever concocted by the federal government, from soup (9 CFR 319.720) to nuts (21 CFR 164.110). And despite being incredibly important to businesses big and small, it doesn’t make for very enjoyable reading.

As of 2015, the CFR was a whopping 178,277 pages. That’s about 150 times the length of the Bible. If it was compiled into one volume, the book would be nearly 60 feet thick.

And while some of the CFR focuses on important issues like aviation and medicine, much of it covers everyday minutiae.

The first seven years of the Obama Administration added 18,731 pages to the CFR — a 12.4 percent increase. This despite his annual State of the Union promises to cut unnecessary red tape.

So, the next time you hear big-government advocates insist that DC is stripped to the bone and there’s not a dime that can be cut from the budget, reflect upon the humble pickle.

Or, to use the government’s definition, reflect upon the humble “product prepared entirely or predominantly from cucumbers (Cucumis sativus L). Clean, sound ingredients are used that may or may not have been previously subjected to fermentation and curing in a salt brine. The product is prepared and preserved through natural or controlled fermentation or by direct addition of vinegar to an equilibrated pH of 4.6 or below. The equilibrated pH value must be maintained for the storage life of the product. The product may be further preserved by pasteurization with heat, or refrigeration and may contain other vegetables, nutritive sweeteners, seasonings, flavorings, spices, and other ingredients permissible under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The product is packed in commercially suitable containers to assure preservation.”

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  1. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    I think the “repeal two to add one” rule ought to be “repeal twenty to add one”.  Or just repeal the Administrative Procedures Act.  I think it is unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority, anyways.

    • #1
  2. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    You know as I get older, I am more tolerant of regulations defining a thing.

    That doesn’t mean some of it is not absurd, and may go to far, but that doesn’t mean that society doesn’t need to have some kind of means of deciding what a pickle is.

    Edit:  I believe this kind of nonsense makes a more efficient agricultural commodity market place.

    • #2
  3. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    How do We even begin to understand all that gobbledygook? I mean… really…. the metric system?

    Another example that the government is infiltrated with commies.

    • #3
  4. cirby Inactive
    cirby
    @cirby

    Guruforhire (View Comment):
    You know as I get older, I am more tolerant of regulations defining a thing.

    That doesn’t mean some of it is not absurd, and may go to far, but that doesn’t mean that society doesn’t need to have some kind of means of deciding what a pickle is.

    Well, that covers the first paragraph.

    Next!

    • #4
  5. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    The ship of state sinks on!

    • #5
  6. Gumby Mark Thatcher
    Gumby Mark
    @GumbyMark

    For ten years my job required me to review the Federal Register daily. It was a transformative experience. Every high school senior should be required to do so for a month.  Then the revolution!

    • #6
  7. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all pickles meet uniform government standards . . .

    • #7
  8. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Gumby Mark (View Comment):
    For ten years my job required me to review the Federal Register daily. It was a transformative experience. Every high school senior should be required to do so for a month. Then the revolution!

    I could support that…

    • #8
  9. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Your tax dollars paid bureaucrats to mandate that a “small gherkin” must be less than 2.4 cm in diameter, whereas a “large gherkin” can have a diameter of up to 2.7 cm.

    How does a business man or farmer not break the law at least once each day with nonsense like this.

    I was pretty calm today, Jon. Thanks for making my blood boil.

    • #9
  10. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Little Jon Gabriel

    Sat there smirkin’

    Wrote seventeen pages

    Just on a gherkin.

    Lots of regulations

    Really a bitter pill

    And forty-eight paragraphs

    Just on the dill.

     

    • #10
  11. Philopus Inactive
    Philopus
    @Philopus

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: What on earth do they do in there? I wondered.

    I’m guessing they are growing crops in climate-change-free zone; the future of agriculture – government style.

    • #11
  12. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Well, I read this post and the first thing that occurred to me is that folks on this side of the pond should not have been laughing so heartily at the absurd EU banana regulations all this time.  Perhaps, in this sort of thing, the EU took a leaf out of the FDA’s book.

    It would be nice, in a perverse sort of way, to think the rot travels in both directions.

    • #12
  13. Steve in Richmond Member
    Steve in Richmond
    @SteveinRichmond

    Guruforhire (View Comment):
    You know as I get older, I am more tolerant of regulations defining a thing.

    That doesn’t mean some of it is not absurd, and may go to far, but that doesn’t mean that society doesn’t need to have some kind of means of deciding what a pickle is.

    Edit: I believe this kind of nonsense makes a more efficient agricultural commodity market place.

    I think I would be OK letting the dictionaries define what a pickle is.  I don’t need the government in my pickle barrel, nor do I want to paying people to generate this type nonsense.

    I am sure that the traders of agricultural commodities can figure out a way to define their products.

    • #13
  14. Chuck Enfield Inactive
    Chuck Enfield
    @ChuckEnfield

    And the USDA is just the tip of the iceberg.  Throw in the FDA and a couple hundred state agencies involved with regulating food and it’s surprising we’re allowed to eat at all.

    • #14
  15. Chuck Enfield Inactive
    Chuck Enfield
    @ChuckEnfield

    Guruforhire (View Comment):
    You know as I get older, I am more tolerant of regulations defining a thing.

    That doesn’t mean some of it is not absurd, and may go to far, but that doesn’t mean that society doesn’t need to have some kind of means of deciding what a pickle is.

    Edit: I believe this kind of nonsense makes a more efficient agricultural commodity market place.

    So when are they going to put the bureaucratic machinery to a good use?  It would be nice if when I order a craft beer the name gave me some idea what it tastes like.  I don’t mean that you can’t name your beer Malodorous Monk or some other nonsense, but if you’re going to call something a stout, it should taste something like a stout.  If Trump wasn’t so busy tweeting he could be working on something important like that.

    • #15
  16. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Battle of the Bureaucrats

     

    EU Commission Regulation (EC) No. 2257/94 of 16 September 1994 laying down quality standards for bananas, sometimes referred to in the media as the bendy banana law,

    • #16
  17. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Chuck Enfield (View Comment):

    Guruforhire (View Comment):
    You know as I get older, I am more tolerant of regulations defining a thing.

    That doesn’t mean some of it is not absurd, and may go to far, but that doesn’t mean that society doesn’t need to have some kind of means of deciding what a pickle is.

    Edit: I believe this kind of nonsense makes a more efficient agricultural commodity market place.

    So when are they going to put the bureaucratic machinery to a good use? It would be nice if when I order a craft beer the name gave me some idea what it tastes like. I don’t mean that you can’t name your beer Malodorous Monk or some other nonsense, but if you’re going to call something a stout, it should taste something like a stout. If Trump wasn’t so busy tweeting he could be working on something important like that.

    I am sure there is one.

    • #17
  18. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    Guruforhire (View Comment):
    You know as I get older, I am more tolerant of regulations defining a thing.

    That doesn’t mean some of it is not absurd, and may go to far, but that doesn’t mean that society doesn’t need to have some kind of means of deciding what a pickle is.

    Edit: I believe this kind of nonsense makes a more efficient agricultural commodity market place.

    I suppose have gone overboard, but I am not so sure that pickle regulations is such a bad thing.  When I go to the grocery, I have an expectation that the description on the label will have some bearing in fact to the contents in the jar.  These sorts of definitions were originally just from trade associations, but they got adopted by government when trade agreements were negotiated to prevent our all-American cucumber growers from suffering from unfair trade practices of foreign brine conglomerates.

    So long as a grower can sell their pickles and all the government really cares about are food safety and proper definitions of terms, then I am OK with regulations.

    If, however, they are regulating the length of pickling time or the garlic content or the size of the jar, then they are in need of serious pruning.

    • #18
  19. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    So this makes me wonder.

     

    The Bible says that the lambs sacraficed could not be deformed in anyway.  This makes me wonder if the levites had a compliance manual.

    • #19
  20. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    She (View Comment):
    Well, I read this post and the first thing that occurred to me is that folks on this side of the pond should not have been laughing so heartily at the absurd EU banana regulations all this time. Perhaps, in this sort of thing, the EU took a leaf out of the FDA’s book.

    It would be nice, in a perverse sort of way, to think the rot travels in both directions.

    Good point. That was my first thought as well.

    • #20
  21. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    We need weekly articles like this with lots of tweets, a cable news regulatory joke  of the day with the rest of us writing letters.  Moreover, every time a politicians appears on sunday or any other interview they should be asked about them.   They will not go away until politicians and administrative officials get sucked into and embarrassed by the 24 hr news cycle.

    • #21
  22. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She (View Comment):
    Well, I read this post and the first thing that occurred to me is that folks on this side of the pond should not have been laughing so heartily at the absurd EU banana regulations all this time. Perhaps, in this sort of thing, the EU took a leaf out of the FDA’s book.

    It would be nice, in a perverse sort of way, to think the rot travels in both directions.

    The point of that wasn’t that our government doesn’t do silly things — of course it does. But it is even sillier if you have a Belgian do it.

    • #22
  23. Acook Member
    Acook
    @Acook

    Does this mean there are folks out there employed doing nothing but measuring the cucumbers to see which ones are good enough to go on to become pickles?  How does this work?

    • #23
  24. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    Acook (View Comment):
    Does this mean there are folks out there employed doing nothing but measuring the cucumbers to see which ones are good enough to go on to become pickles? How does this work?

    Food manufacturers police themselves.  They run routine tests on each batch, and review quality control samples, and maintain records.  There are government inspectors who drop in and look to see if they are doing what they are supposed to do and check the recordkeeping.  This is in addition to OSHA practices and inspections that are oriented to worker safety.

    If a plant is turning out a noncompliant product either they will respond to complaints from distributors or retailers who are passing along complaints from consumers, or they will respond to direct complaints from consumers.   But sometimes a complaint about unfair practices gets sent in to FDA from a competitor.

    Pickles, though, is such a safe and easy product it is surprising that elaborate rules are needed or wanted.  The key thing is safe practices.

    It is amazing how safe our food supply is.  Most Americans hardly ever think about it.

    • #24
  25. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    Snooks’s first job out of college was as a quality control officer in a potato chip factory.   She was really young but had a fresh degree in Food Technology from the School of Agriculture at UT (a very different program than the Food Science program in the School of Home Economics).   She had only been there for three months when she ordered an entire shift’s production of Bugles to be sent to the landfill.   The plant manager went ballistic but she showed how one of the conveyer screws had got misaligned and had sent some tiny shavings of metal into the big vat.   She held her ground and I was very proud of her.

    The risk was really very low that any of those bags held some bugles with metal shavings in them, but rules are rules, and we have rules for a reason.

    I mourned for those Bugles.   There was nothing better than when she brought home fresh Bugles still hot from the line.

    • #25
  26. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:On my first trip to DC, an immigrant cabbie pointed out buildings to college-aged me. As he highlighted the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and every other building I already knew, we drove by an imposing monolith near the mall. “What’s that?” I asked. “Oh, that’s the Department of Agriculture,” he said.

    As it turned out, it was just the south building of the USDA, the largest office building in the world until the Pentagon was built. Next door is the USDA’s massive Jamie L. Whitten Building, which covers four acres by itself. What on earth do they do in there? I wondered.

    I was already laughing at this point in your OP. I was crying by the time I finished the whole post. I think there are more bureaucrats in the Dept of Ag then there are farms in the USA.

    • #26
  27. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    The goofy-looking pickles end up as relish.

    • #27
  28. profdlp Inactive
    profdlp
    @profdlp

    Guruforhire (View Comment):
    So this makes me wonder.

    The Bible says that the lambs sacrificed could not be deformed in anyway. This makes me wonder if the Levites had a compliance manual.

    I have read the bible clear through a number of times.  No matter which translation, big sections of Leviticus always comes across to me as being very much like a government manual.

    • #28
  29. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    For your consideration I give you:

    Article 1, Section 1 of the Constitution:

    “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives. ”

    There’s this terrible word in there- do you see it – that damn Constitution thing says “All” when granting  legislative powers of the Federal Government and grants them only to Congress.  That’s right only Congress can make Federal Law – even law regarding pickles – that is of course if you follow the Constitution.

    But of course because we must do the full kowtow to our Progressive Betters, back under FDR in the 30’s,  the Supreme  Court in a series of decisions granted the right to make law to the Federal Bureaucracy.  So now that’s the law of the land, as John Kasich would say, even though that stupid Constitutional thingy didn’t grant the right to  make law to the Supreme Court either.

    So let’s review the scoring:

    A. Score a enormous out of the park home run for those who want to shred the Constitution, because few would utter the heresy now of questioning the Supreme Court’s ability to make the  Federal bureaucracy so powerful.

    B. Score another enormous home run for those who want to control nearly every facet of our lives, because now the Federal Bureaucracy can regulate us to death on just about anything, anytime and anyplace behind closed doors without hardly any accountability. And Boy Howdy! have they taken to that regulating thing!

    C. Score a big fat zero – in fact kind of like a black hole zero – for our God Given Unalienable Rights – which can obviously be ripped to shreds anytime the Supremes deem it necessary to keep the Progressive faith.

    But to make matters worse, even earlier than FDR, the Supremes came up with this fantastic,  new innovative concept not quite found in the Constitution called the “Police Power”- another end run around the Constitution – which after asserting some action would benefit the ” general welfare”,  grants our glorious Government the power to “police” your activities as it sees fit – meaning take away again your rights with any “just compensation”.

    It would be one thing if the government would be required to go through a rigorous “proof” process where all impacts – economic, social, etc. where considered from all major points of view, when they wanted to take away our rights under this “General Welfare” clause.  But as far  as I can tell that never happens – our judiciary just allows the government run roughshod after asserting this police power.

    Taken together, these two “Living-Breathing Constitution” ideas grant enormous power to our government and turn one of the most important  purposes of the Constitution – “limited government” – on it’s head. Our Constitution was written to prevent the takeover of our government by a so-callled Elite that abused us at will. But that  is exactly what is happening now.

     

     

     

     

    • #29
  30. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Cheese has similar standards of identity. As much as I would curse the USDA sometimes for other reasons, standards of identity are a good thing in my opinion. Even with them there are unscrupulous individuals willing to commit fraud upon the consumer. It would be the Wild West without them. A product that is often  adulterated is grated cheese and shredded cheese.

    • #30

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