Opinion: Support Local Sustainable Agriculture, Support HB 144

Dr. Lynn Johnson
Dr. Lynn Johnson

The 2016 bill, HB 144 – Food Freedom Act, proposes that small farmers be allowed to sell their edible critters directly to consumers. That means I could go to a local farmers’ market and purchase pork, chicken, and beef from the actual farmer.*

It is opposed by Big Agriculture, by which I mean, the folks who jam cattle and birds into confined / concentrated feeding operations. This CAFO (“concentrated animal feeding operation) model for producing meat is very efficient. Beef and chicken are much less expensive than if you bought birds that wander around on pasture or cows that eat nothing but range grass.

They are also much less safe.

CAFO meats are responsible for repeated outbreaks of food borne illnesses. The reason for this is simple: we are dosing our edible critters in CAFOs with low doses of antibiotics. That is not because they are sick, although, jammed together as they are, they do get sick much more often. Rather it is because small doses of antibiotics make animals put on weight much more quickly. But that also breeds antibiotic-resistant bugs. In 2013, the Environmental Working Group reported that these super-bugs were found in:

  •       81 percent of ground turkey
  •       69 percent of pork chops
  •       55 percent of ground beef
  •       39 percent of raw chicken parts

On the other hand, Joel Salatin, the Dean of Pastured Poultry, has compared the safety of his chickens with USDA inspected chicken. His chickens are not dipped in chlorine bleach to kill the bugs as the USDA chickens are, but they are consistently much cleaner and practically free of nasty germs.

Now clearly, thorough cooking kills all these unfriendlies, and whether you buy chicken at the farmers’ market or at a supermarket, it must be cooked thoroughly.

But the real problem with this bill is that it undermines Big Agriculture, the factory farms and the state agencies that exist to support them. So naturally we have the state Department of Agriculture also opposing this bill. There is no reason. They cannot show any food borne illness outbreaks related to independent small farmers selling their products. No matter, the Official Position is that somehow public health will be compromised.

Big Ag makes for inexpensive food. It isn’t very high quality, and it is full of dangerous germs that, from time to time, cause illnesses. But most people will roll the dice and continue to buy Big Ag produce. No problem.

But the fact is that all large business tries to influence government to create special advantages. It is called Crony Capitalism, and it is the enemy of true capitalism. The small farmer selling me and others his best produce is the model of true capitalism. Don’t support Crony Capitalism. Support free enterprise.

Support HB 144.

*Editors note: HB 144 would not change inspection requirements for meat, wild game, wild fish, or poultry (except in specific circumstances). 

Dr. Lynn Johnson is an adjunct professor teaching in the management department at the University of Utah, and has also taught in the MBA program at Brigham Young University. He writes for his professional website DrLynnJohnson.com.

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