I can feel it. This is where we come together, people. When it comes to our stomachs, we’re all libertarians now.
Why? Because a growing cultural trend of embracing high-quality foods from local sources to make our gobbling both more green and more gratifying has run into a lot of onerous food regulation that makes the delivering and selling of your neighborhood kale or goat cheese illegal. It has also run into entrenched food purveyors in the market who are more than happy to use government regulation to muscle out these small, new competitors. This cultural trend is of course also fertile ground for many a liberal buzzword. There’s homesteading and sustainable eating, which you may know by the term “my garden.” There are locavores, which you may know by the less catchy “neighbors to whom I give extra bell peppers from my garden.” There’s a CSA, which you may know as a “farm.” But the point is, we like the same, yummy things and those yummy things, by whatever name you choose to call them, require freedom and local control to truly prosper.
Voters here made their town the fifth in Hancock County to pass a local food sovereignty ordinance that thumbs its nose at state and federal regulations for direct-to-consumer sales of prepared foods and farm products.
In a referendum election on March 4, residents voted 112-64 to approve the “Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance,” which states that producers or processors of local foods are “exempt from licensure and inspection,” so long as the food is sold directly by the producer to a consumer.
The ordinance also makes it “unlawful for any law or regulation adopted by the state or federal government to interfere with the rights organized by this ordinance.”
The state contends that such ordinances hold no legal weight, but that hasn’t stopped residents of Sedgwick, Penobscot, Blue Hill and Trenton from passing the same local rules. Food sovereignty ordinances also have been passed in Hope, Plymouth, Livermore and Appleton.
In an interview, Kaylene Waindle, special assistant to the attorney general, said the state has a legitimate and legal interest in overseeing the safety of food being sold to consumers, and that state laws about food safety, inspection and licensing pre-empt local ordinances.
Much like individual states passing marijuana laws that fly in the face of the federal government’s stance on cannabis, the dispute over who controls local food regulation seems destined for court.
“Food sovereignty,” by the way is what we know as plain old-fashioned freedom. These are important fights, not least of all because they communicate to people who might generally be liberal in disposition the following concept. It is nonsensical to think the government far away in our state capital is the only force that can ensure the high quality of the food we eat. In the case of this local food, we often know the growers, and are friends with those who bring it to market, which in our minds, makes it a safer bet than most of what comes through the USDA or FDA. We are part of a community of growers that holds itself to high standards of freshness and maintains best practices. Preventing us from growing or obtaining this delicious food from our neighbors in the process of mutually beneficial commerce seems downright unAmerican, especially when tiny local farmers are disproportionately affected by burdensome regulations.
Yes, now in the same manner as you would a leafy green from Farmer Brown’s with the good soil still clinging to its roots— wash, rinse, and repeat.
In Washington, D.C., where the most recent outbreak of libertarianism among my liberal friends came when the taxi cabs tried to regulate their limos out of existence, now the regulators are after food trucks. I welcome this clatch of literal limousine liberals to the libertarian fold on any issue we can get them, and this is another one. Keep in mind, the wonder that is gourmet, diverse, affordable food truck dining in America’s cities was borne partly of the high barrier to entry in the restaurant business. Lots of regulations, lots of overhead, lots of property taxes. A truck allowed a more free-wheeling service, and the public lined up. Now, entrenched restaurants are none too happy about it, resulting in proposed regulations that would ban food trucks from most of downtown D.C.
Well the idea is to establish “23 mobile vending zones throughout the city where limited numbers of food trucks would be allowed to sell food” with each zone featuring at least three trucks and assignment to different zones auctioned by lottery. She also wrote a longer column featuring interviews with many truck owners about the problems this will cause for their businesses.
But my question is what problem is this proposal intended to solve? I don’t hear any clear rationale for these rules and the only real beneficiaries would seem to be owners of non-mobile downtown lunch businesses.
That would hardly be the first time that a city government adopted irrational vendor rules designed to benefit incumbents but it’s not good.
No, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time. Check out the map just slathered in red, where people would be unable to sell goods to people who want to buy them.
D.C. food trucks have been dealing with this uncertainty for quite some time now. Let Che, owner of his own truck and political director of the Food Truck Association, tell you about it in this video by my bud Sean Malone:
The Washington Examiner‘s Tim Carney hosted a great panel on the subject of food freedom at American Enterprise Institute this month. Video, here.
Oh, and this is a video I did a while back on the FDA jackbooting Amish farmers who sell raw milk. Yeah, that’s me drinking raw milk. Because ‘Merica.