THE BUREAUCRATS COME CALLING
August 11, 2010
After more than five years of full time fighting and agitating for food freedom and the complete abandonment of NAIS or NAIS like things, I finally received a visit from compliance officers. What officers, you ask? They were Missouri Department of Agriculture Compliance Investigators, John Jordan and Joe Stropp.
They came past "No Trespassing” signs, had no paperwork to show me, ie. no written complaint. They were just 'investigating' a report that I was engaged in selling meat and poultry products. Well, even though I am not involved in selling meat, it is certainly something I am a strong advocate for, and I told them so. They said, "Do you know there are some exemptions you can apply for to sell poultry directly?"
Eeegads. I thought, “I don't want an 'exemption' because that grants you authority over me anyway.” but I didn't bother to get into that as I was a little cranky. To the agents, I said, “As you can see, we don’t have enough poultry to be selling to anyone.”
John tried to be engaging, but since I was just eating breakfast at 11:30 after milking my neighbor’s cows so they could have a vacation, I wasn't feeling too chatty, nor too appreciative of them coming on our property with only business cards and a 'rumor'.
He tried to talk to me about our dog. I wasn't interested. He said, "I notice you have dairy goats, do you milk them?" I just looked at him with a certain level of incredulity in my eyes, and asked "Who reported that I was selling meat and poultry products?"
Of course, being good government agents, they can't give out that information. It could be someone within the department itself. Who knows who it is? Evidently nobody cares. For agency types, it appears that it's fun to justify continued employment by going onto people's property to investigate unsubstantiated anonymous rumors with no basis in fact or need of any fact. The philosophy they appear to follow could be stated like this, "Heck, if we have 'reason to believe', like you have chickens or a cow or a goat, you can get a visit from us! We're nice guys, and we are really mindful of our public booty...I mean duty." Great use of taxpayer money, don't you think?
John said something like 'we're simply given a list of things to do and not making the decisions", but they had to investigate reports of activity that might violate regulations. I told him, "We grow our own meat, and as you can see, we don't have enough chickens to engage in selling them, but even if we did, it would be direct trade and you don't have authority over that." And thus ensued the only interesting conversation we had... the ever so enlightening conversation regarding commerce.
John told me that "commerce is whenever you sell something." Then I explained to him that wasn't right, commerce is when you bring in a third party, and gave the example of taking calves to a sale barn as fulfilling the requirements of commerce, but if I sold calves to my neighbor, that wasn't commerce. Joe said, "I think that's right. It's private treaty or something." Then John told me it all depended upon the definitions, and I said, “Yes, and the definition of commerce includes the involvement of a third party.” I think that aggravated John as he then asked, "Is there anything else we don't know that you'd like to tell us?," to which I replied, "I don't know what you don't know."
They then said, "Well if you're not selling meat then I guess we'll get on with our day," and I said good bye to the compliance officers.
Since I am who I am, I have a few thoughts on this. The first one is, in the past couple of weeks I have received several phone calls asking for fresh goat milk. I stopped selling goat milk when I became terrifically engaged in the National Animal Identification System fight. It was just not worth the potential hassle for the little bit I sold.
However, every time the Milk Board is about to do a sting, I receive requests from far away for goat milk. Within a few months people are receiving mailed notices of fines or cease and desist letters in the mail. So, I would expect some activity in the near future on fresh milk in Missouri. Based on the visit today, we should begin to expect visits to any food activist who grows anything agencies might decide they can extrapolate authority over.
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And I hadn't even been able to get into the shower when they showed up. Poor guys, got to see evidence of work on a very hot August morning....I wasn't even hospitable to them. Shame on me, I let them stand in the sun.
© 2010 Doreen Hannes - All Rights Reserved