Strange (Vegetable) Bedfellows


Pragmatic anti-government sentiment is emerging from unlikely places these days. In the wake of the E coli spinach scare, the "edgy" environmental magazine Grist has a stunningly sensible take on a new Senate bill that would "subject raw-vegetable production to a regulatory regime similar to the one governing meat. Their proposal would create a unified Food Safety Administration, combining under one umbrella the USDA's jurisdiction over meat and poultry processing with the FDA's over vegetable production":

There are severe costs to relying on a heavy government hand to ensure a reasonable level of food safety. Inspectors are adept at enforcing rules, and less so at making obvious distinctions [between local farms and industrial facilities]….

Federal regulations are essentially placing obstacles between local consumers and farmers, and favoring an environmentally ruinous, nutritionally suspect model (corn-fed beef shipped long distances) over a much more benign one (grass-fed beef consumed locally).

The article was written by the aptly named Tom Philpott, who "farms and cooks at Maverick Farms, a sustainable-agriculture nonprofit and small farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina."

His policy recommendation?:

Rather than rely on the federal government to keep your spinach safe, get thee to the farmers' market and meet your area farmers.

You know alliances are in flux when Grist is linking to an article in National Review ripping on the USDA and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

For more on the potential libertarian constituency among food snobs, those lucky enough to be print subscribers can check out my review of Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma in the current issue.