Good Government, Bad Government
by Jack Beuttell -- November 16th, 2011
re: the role of gov’t in sustainable farming, Food Safety and Inspection, and the U.S. Farm Bill.
One of the more interesting themes from the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s weekend Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Durham was the role of the government in sustainable farming and food production. On Saturday afternoon, for example, there was some impassioned discourse on the federal inspection of meat production facilities in the “From Pasture to Plate: Post-Production Issues for Meat” session.
Panelist Uli Bennewitz, owner of the Weeping Radish Farm, Restaurant and Brewery in Grandy, NC, for example, expressed strong opinions that the federal inspection process is broken and misguided, having very little to do with food safety. As an artisan butcher, he thinks the common use of the phrase “processing” to describe his work is crass. So when the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service approaches the inspection process with a similar absence of sensitivity to nuance and purpose, Uli and his master German butcher are left acutely frustrated. And lots of heads from the crowd nodded in agreement.
In the “Energy Issues on the Farm” session on Sunday, however, there was a much more favorable opinion of the government in the air. Two JD candidates from the Vermont Law School, representing its Institute for Energy and the Environment, delineated the many incentives offered to farmers by the government via the U.S. Farm Bill. They described the REAP program under the Energy Title and the EQIP program under the Conservation Title, among others, delivering a barrage of acronyms that everyone was eager to learn. And the crowd was alive with questions, because who doesn’t like getting free money?