« Karl's Comments

The Feds are coming

by Jeremy Lawrence

Fairly regularly over the past few decades, weve heard a rationale for legislation that proves, or will turn out to be, inimicable to agriculture, expressed this way: Theres nobody in Lansing/Washington who knows anything about farming. Thats somewhat of an overstatement, of course, but I think theres some value in it. If theyre thinking about it, major farm organizations and well-established commodity groups, are better armed to defend against unfriendly, often thoughtless attempts to regulate this or that. Lets take the current campaign involving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, with its proposed interpretation of that part of the Clean Water Act that deals with groundwater. There was a time when folks on both sides of the argument were mostly comfortable with reference to navigable waters. Rural America generally and Agriculture specifically have been able to live with that. Now comes the rewrite, which will enable EPA to micro-manage farming, and impose unworkable regulations on farmers, while granting the Corps and EPA oversight of land use. I dont know it for a fact, but it does seem likely that administrators in either agency have little or no firsthand, or even secondhand knowledge of how modern agriculture really works.

Now, heres one that has no direct regulatory responsibility, but the various animal rights groups pretty regularly go charging into agribusiness with high falutin notions about farm animal mistreatment and really do, it seems to me, go at it with Dont try to confuse me with facts-my mind s already made up. They dont always win, as in the Massachusetts case where those people would have prohibited pork producers from housing sows in gestation stalls. The prohibition was proposed in theMassachusetts legislature, but was rejected.

I think the jury might still be out on this one, but the Food and Drug Administration has established standards for labeling foods free of gluten, gluten free, without gluten and no gluten. My goodness, what terrible stuff this gluten must be. There are those folks, and nobodys offered a number or a percentage, that suffer various forms of gastric distress traceable to diets containing a mixture of proteins that occur naturally in wheat, barley, rye, and crossbreeds of those grains. Apparently acknowledging that gluten is the new holy grail of dietary purity, FDA has not only permitted such labeling for foods with less than 20 parts per million gluten, but also permits a gluten-free label on foods that inherently dont have any gluten. Bottled water, for example, can be labeled gluten-free.

Its not Big Brother yet; but Uncle Sam is getting more and more nosey!

Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached at khguenther@att.net . He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.