Joel Salatin’s Testimony on Food Freedom in Maine

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Joel Salatin, author and owner of Polyface Farms

Joel Salatin, author and own­er of Poly­face Farms

Joel Salatin tes­ti­fied on April 30, 2015 before a leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee in favor of a state con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment in Maine on the Right to Food. Below is the text of his remarks.

Sen­a­tor Edge­comb, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Hick­man, and oth­er dis­tin­guished mem­bers of the Joint Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on Agri­cul­ture, Con­ser­va­tion and Forestry: my name is Joel Salatin from Vir­ginia and I am here to tes­ti­fy in favor of LD 783, a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment to estab­lish a right to food. I’m a farmer, eater, and more impor­tant­ly, cus­to­di­an of a 3 tril­lion mem­ber inter­nal com­mu­ni­ty of bac­te­r­i­al beings ener­giz­ing my personhood.

The only rea­son the founders of our great repub­lic did not include food rights along­side the right to bear arms, to speak, and to wor­ship was because no one at that time could have envi­sioned a day when cit­i­zens could not acquire the food of their choice from the source of their choice.

Pri­or to fair­ly mod­ern times, peo­ple depend­ed on their com­mu­ni­ties for food. Pro­duc­tion, pre­serv­ing, pro­cess­ing, and pack­ag­ing were all done in a fair­ly trans­par­ent rela­tion­al trans­ac­tion. Shod­dy par­tic­i­pants expe­ri­enced com­mu­ni­ty cen­sure to main­tain hygiene and standards.

With the rise of the indus­tri­al food sys­tem, this account­abil­i­ty by the com­mons was replaced by gov­ern­men­tal admin­is­tra­tive bureau­cra­cy. An opaque indus­tri­al food sys­tem cre­at­ed a desire in the cul­ture for over­sight. That over­sight has arguably become just as opaque and indus­tri­al as the enti­ty it was cre­at­ed to police. Instead of con­sent­ing adults vol­un­tar­i­ly self-actu­al­iz­ing their deci­sion-mak­ing free­dom to pri­vate con­tract, reg­u­la­tors began defin­ing and manip­u­lat­ing food commerce.

Large indus­tri­al food busi­ness­es cur­ried favor with reg­u­la­tors and politi­cians who empow­ered them. Grad­u­al­ly an unholy alliance between indus­tri­al food and farm enter­pris­es and the reg­u­la­to­ry fra­ter­ni­ty, encour­aged by an increas­ing­ly para­noid, igno­rant, and dis­en­fran­chised con­sum­ing pop­u­lace, demo­nized, mar­gin­al­ized, and crim­i­nal­ized his­toric free­dom of choice through the food commons.

But­ter and lard were out; hydro­genat­ed veg­etable oil was in. Raw milk was out; Coke and Moun­tain Dew were in. Home­made quiche was out; microwav­able hot pock­ets with unpro­nounce­able ingre­di­ents were in. As the offi­cial USDA food pyra­mid wreaks its hav­oc on the pop­u­la­tion by encour­ag­ing car­bo­hy­drates and emp­ty calo­ries, many cit­i­zens real­ize gov­ern­ment-sanc­tioned food and farm­ing bank­rupt our health and wellness.

Many of us yearn to opt out of this enslav­ing ortho­doxy. We pre­fer home­made any­thing, know­ing our farm­ers, lov­ing com­post piles, ani­mals that don’t do drugs, and acquir­ing most of our food from sources we vet through per­son­al knowl­edge or the scut­tle­butt waft­ing through the commons.

But to our dis­may, we’ve found our choic­es blocked. We can’t buy the whole­some quiche from our neigh­bor. In order to sell me her unadul­ter­at­ed, small-ingre­di­ent quiche, she must cap­i­tal­ize a com­mer­cial kitchen and nav­i­gate a labyrinth of licens­es, com­pli­ances, and infra­struc­ture. The result is that my gov­ern­ment denies me the free­dom to pur­chase food through my com­mons. I can’t exer­cise free­dom of choice; I must depend on admin­is­tra­tive reg­u­la­tors to deter­mine my body’s fuel.

I can’t imag­ine a more basic human right, a more bi-par­ti­san issue, than pro­tect­ing my right to choose my body’s food. Who could pos­si­bly think that such free­dom of choice should be denied? We allow peo­ple to smoke, shoot, preach, home edu­cate, spray their yards with chem­i­cals, buy lot­tery tick­ets, and read about the Kar­dashi­ans: wouldn’t you think we could let peo­ple choose their food?

It is time to give us back the food free­dom our ances­tors enjoyed. Free­dom is not a focus group exer­cise. If we can’t taste free­dom, we can only talk about it, and that leaves lib­er­ty hol­low. It’s time for us to embrace the inno­va­tion and food secu­ri­ty solu­tions that grant­i­ng a fun­da­men­tal right to food engen­ders. You’ve been gra­cious to let me address you this after­noon. Now please do the right thing and vote yes on LD 783.

Thank you.

Amend­ment LD 783 reads as fol­lows, “Right to food. Every indi­vid­ual has a nat­ur­al and unalien­able right to food and to acquire food for that individual’s own nour­ish­ment and sus­te­nance by hunt­ing, gath­er­ing, for­ag­ing, farm­ing, fish­ing or gar­den­ing or by barter, trade or pur­chase from sources of that individual’s own choos­ing, and every indi­vid­ual is ful­ly respon­si­ble for the exer­cise of this right, which may not be infringed.”