Big Goverment and Small Potatoes

That was the tentative title of a chapter in my forthcoming book, Food Police, that ultimately wound up on the cutting room floor.  I spent a good portion of the book, and have many posts here on the blog, where I defend Big Food and Big Ag.  That's not because they are blameless or perfect, but because they are so often mischaracterized and are the scapegoats for many of societies perceived evils.  

But, it would be a mistake to think that food freedoms are threatened only by government regulation of Big Food and Ag.  In fact, one can often see the plain injustice at work when you look at the impacts of intrusive government regulations (and the crony capitalism sometimes promulgated by Big Food) on small potatoes - food trucks, farmers markets, and small operators just trying to make a buck.  I chose not to focus heavily on this in the book because they represent such a small part of our overall food economy, but I'm glad to see some attention being devoted to the issue.  

The American Enterprise Institute is hosting a conference title "Big government and big food vs. food trucks, foodies, and farmers markets."  Here's their promo:

If you like your food local, organic, or from a truck, government regulation might be your biggest obstacle. American restaurants lobby to choke off food trucks, and federal regulation of food safety leads to more consolidation in the industry. Moreover, farmers markets struggle to survive under the heavy hand of government.
What if food safety regulation is not about limiting the germs in our dinner, but is rather about limiting competition in America’s food industry? What if federal and local rules actually protect incumbent businesses instead of consumers?

If you want to whet your appetite, I highly recommend this article from a few weeks back, entitled, Tea Party Libertarians and Small Organic Farmers Make Strange Political Bedfellows.  Here are some spinets:  

Laura Bledsoe didn't set out to join a political movement, she merely wanted to serve what she considered a sustainable meal.
In October 2011 she and her husband Monte decided they wanted to host what they called a "farm to fork" event in their home. They own a small farm 50 miles outside of Las Vegas.


Trouble began two days before the event was to take place. They received a call from the Southern Nevada Health District Office, who wanted to know if the farmers had secured a health permit for the event. "We didn't know we needed to," Laura says.

Then a health inspector came:

The health inspector raised several concerns, but chief among them was the meat the Bledsoes were preparing to serve. Because the event was advertised as a "zero mile footprint," the meat hadn't been sent through a USDA processing plant, as is required for any meat purchased at a grocery store or restaurant, so the inspector deemed it illegal to serve.

The article tells several stories of a similar nature - check it out.