Food Freedom and the Governmental Busybodies

It’s an issue worth paying attention to. Yes, there ought to be health and safety inspections for food, and yes, there will always be some level of regulation involved when it comes to our diets. But this is ridiculous:

… Significant recent developments are centered in Virginia—a state boasting both lots of lawyers and lots of farmers.

Perhaps the most noteworthy development in the state is Virginia’s proposed farm freedom law—also known as the Boneta Bill. The bill is named for Virginia farmer Martha Boneta, who was fined last summer for having hosted a birthday party for her friend’s pre-teen daughter on her own farm without first obtaining a permit.

As Katherine Mangu-Ward noted in an August post at Hit & Run, local zoning officers fined Boneta $5,000 for that alleged infraction and added on another $5,000 for “advertising a pumpkin carving.”

Disgusted by the clear assault on Boneta’s rights as a person and farmer, supporters drafted a farm freedom bill that would expand the definition of the state’s existing Right to Farm Law—including providing farmers like Boneta with a private right of action against busybody regulators and “assert[ing] that any ordinance directed at persons, property, or activity on land that is zoned agricultural or silvicultural that seeks to restrict free speech or the right to assembly, among other rights, is null and void.”

“Burdensome rules, regulations and inspection requirements—many of which are indecipherable except to lawyers and bureaucrats—now impede the ability of health-conscious individuals and small farmers to raise and produce their own food free of corporate contaminants,” says John W. Whitehead, constitutional attorney and president of the nonprofit Rutherford Institute, which is based in Charlottesville, Virginia, in an email to me this week.

“That growing numbers of home gardeners and small farmers are being prosecuted for such inane ‘crimes’ as keeping chickens or making cheese speaks to a growing problem in America today, namely, the overcriminalization and overregulation of a process that once was at the heart of America’s self-sufficiency—the ability to cultivate one’s own food, locally and sustainably,” says Whitehead.

If food production by home gardeners and small farmers were such a threat, the human race would have died off several millennia ago for want of government regulation. You would think that an aspiring regulator would take into account the fact that the human race is alive and well before promulgating busybody laws whose sole effect is to make life less fun, and which will protect no one from any danger—real or imagined. Alas, you would be mistaken in that belief.