One of the sad realizations I’ve come to over the last few years in writing about raw milk is that proponents can’t let their guards down in battling with government officials.
Farmers and consumers alike want so badly to believe that public officials are decent, reasonable, and benevolent, and I have no doubt that some are. But if you look at what’s happened in Wisconsin—and it’s not an isolated example—the relationship between the regulators and the people being regulated is totally adversarial. The regulators are cold, hard-edged battlers who see the people as an enemy, to be beaten into submission. Any pulling back by the people is interpreted as weakness, an opening to be exploited.
Formal and informal understandings are made to be broken. Farmers in Wisconsin who had worked out arrangements for herdshare agreements some years ago have seen those arrangements arbitrarily ended. The same thing happened in Georgia last October when officials confiscated milk from a buying club after five years of allowing the club to operate. A similar scenario for buying groups is unfolding in Massachusetts.
I raise this point because now we are being told that the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is dead. But is it?
When you read the press release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, you have to wonder. It doesn’t say NAIS is dead, or being abandoned. Rather, the first sentence of the announcement states “that USDA will develop a new, flexible framework for animal disease traceability in the United States, and undertake several other actions to further strengthen its disease prevention and response capabilities.”
The release goes on to quote Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as saying: “I’ve decided to revise the prior policy and offer a new approach to animal disease traceability with changes that respond directly to the feedback we heard.”
In fact, nowhere in the release is there any vocabulary approximating such notions as “abandoning” or “discarding” or “pulling back from” or “starting anew” or anything else that might be taken as a recognition that NAIS was a bad joke.
The closest USDA officials come to saying NAIS was ill-advised is in a separate question-and-answer document that reports on “a listening tour” last fall conducted by USDA. “Some people were in favor of NAIS, but the vast majority of participants were highly critical of the program. Some of the concerns and criticisms raised included confidentiality, liability, cost, privacy, and religion. There were also concerns about NAIS being the wrong priority for USDA, that the system benefits only large-scale producers, and that NAIS is unnecessary because existing animal identification systems are sufficient.”
Who gets the blame for these criticisms? Why, the previous president, of course. “Under the previous Administration, USDA tried to implement NAIS. USDA spent more than $120 million, but only 36 percent of producers participated. It is no secret that there are concerns about and opposition to NAIS.”
So the solution appears to be to gain more participation moving forward, not to start fresh and examine how we best deal with the problem of fast-spreading animal diseases. “The benefit of Secretary Vilsack’s decision to move forward with a new approach to animal disease traceability is that USDA will not be creating the framework alone. USDA will partner with States and Tribal Nations to create the framework for the new approach.”
Like Lykke in her comment following my previous post, Vilsack has already decided on both the problem (animal disease outbreaks) and the solution (traceability)—the “new approach” has to do with implementation.
Many NAIS opponents are so relieved at the apparent pullback that they see a huge victory. It’s gotten so that the best we can hope for from mass opposition to a government initiative is delay in its implementation, not a commitment to examine underlying challenges and issues.
In such an atmosphere, questions and issues of the sort Tim Wightman raises in his comment following the previous post—about soil and animal health– never get addressed.
I guess what I find frustrating is that the underlying issues aren’t even acknowledged, and we’re expected to go along with the agenda set out by the bright minds at USDA and DATCP. I think Wayne Craig is likely correct that much of the NAIS situation, like much of the so-called “food safety” legislation ready to be enacted by Congress, is being driven by global marketing considerations. If American agribusiness is going to be “competitive,” it must be able to guarantee compliance with international agricultural standards. The rest of us are expected to go along for the ride.
What to make of the ongoing battle between the Weston A. Price Foundation and Whole Foods over the benefits of a vegetarian diet? Actually, it’s more a protest effort by the Weston A. Price Foundation, objecting to Whole Foods’ emphasis on the low-fat vegetarian-oriented diet, at the expense of WAPF’s animal/dairy-based approach.
Now, in a press release, the Weston A. Price Foundation is advising its members to avoid shopping at Whole Foods stores. (The release hasn’t yet been posted to the foundation’s web site.)
I’d have more of a problem if Whole Foods stopped selling meat and dairy products, but I’ve seen no sign it will. In fact, it was early to the game of restricting itself to meat products free of antibiotics. And in some of its stores, it sells grass-fed meat; moreover, in Pennsylvania and California, it sells raw milk products.
The real problem comes in trying to fight the battle over which type of diet is healthier. The Weston A. Price Foundation’s press release quotes a member who became ill with a vegetarian diet, and recovered her health with the Weston A. Price approach.
In my experience, diet is a personal matter. I know people who thrive on a vegetarian diet. And I know people who thrive on the Weston A. Price approach. I personally draw on both approaches. I sense it’s all a matter of body type, metabolism, genetics, and other factors we don’t fully understand.
The matter definitely won’t be settled by arguing that one diet is “better” than another. ?
First let me say that I generally support the WAPF, and I find many, if not all, of their dietary suggestions to be right on.
I am also a supporter of a WAPF offshoot, the Farm to Consumer Defense Fund. As a matter of fact, I THINK (not totally sure) that I was the first producer member.
With that said, I cannot support a boycott for the same reasons I fight for nutritional choice rights…because of rights. I don’t like ANYONE…the government through coercion and legeslation or the WAPF through "swuggestion" telling me what are and are not correct nutritional choices for me. Both should do the same thing…educate consumers HONESTLY and let consumers make their own choice…period. That’s it.
Whether its the government TELLING me not to buy the food I want where I want, or the WAPF TELLING me where I should or should not buy my food, it, frankly pisses me off. I don’t see a lot of difference between WAPF asking that I boycott Whole Foods and nutrition extremists truying to shut down Micky D’s.
Choice. Our own choice. I kinda thought that was what we were fighting for.
We need to expand choices, freedom and expand truthful education.
Wholefoods screwed up when they took sides and decided to judge those that eat animal fats. Kind of like making a partisan political comment when selling raw milk. It does not go well with the far right, the far left, the middle, and everyone else that loves raw milk.
Food should be a free choice space with the venders and the educators being quite careful about generalizations and claims about being perfect and the only way.
If your choice is true and your north is really north….people will come arround and figuer it out in time. The internet does not cover lies very well….dietary or otherwise. People come to raw milk all the time with their stories of lactose intolerance with pastuerized milk, lumpy breast conditions, manbreasts and osteoporosis after soy products and nervous conditions after a fat free diet. You cheat mother nature and you cheat yourself.
Let educational freedom flow and keep all the whole food in the whole food market place. Having been in Austin at Wholefood Corp….it is fairly easy to see how the Texas no raw milk status and hormone fed beef culture has caused the veggy culture at Wholefoods to go a little off center.
A Rose by any other name…..
And letters are going in in droves, hopefully Whole Foods will listen and make their healthy eating campaign more animal product friendly. Whole Foods is considered by many of our members to be a valuable ally in regaining our health. We do not want to see them hurt by a boycott, nor do we want to see vulnerable people hurt by the extreme reduction of animal based foods. Many of our members are refugees from that sort of diet, and out of concern we issued a strongly worded statement after a private correspondence and phone call to them was unsuccessful.
The "advisory board" for this healthy eating campaign is stacked with vegan/vegetarian diet proponents, the only guy who says you should eat any meat at all says it should be 10% of your diet and no more than once a day. And, only low fat dairy.
Publicist, Weston A. Price Foundation
Moreover, if someone loves ultra high pasteurized milk from happy cows chowing down in a feedlot, and thinks the product makes them "frisky" in bed, isn’t it their right to buy UHT milk and enjoy the perceived experience? What is WAPF’s point with this boycott…to control food choices and hammer their opinion that their nutrition ideas represent the path to being part of the superior immunity race, and anyone else should be eliminated from commerce?
That idea has been epitomized on this blog when people like cp have suggested alternatives to raw milk for probiotics. IApparently, Whole Foods needs to get the message in this boycott: it is WAPF’s way or no way.
Again Lykke, your attempts to villify the good guys can be stood on it’s head and revealed for what it truly is….cacke.
The Foundation doesn’t link increased immunity with a superior race…you do..in order to try and tarnish them. The last thing that the Foundation would ever consider is eliminating food choice and hammer their opinions on others that disagree …..this is exactly what others have been doing to them for years. The elimination of Whole Foods is not the goal as you try to feign…..the balancing of their campaign to reflect truth about healthy eating is what they are after….and while boycott is a strong word, customers using their dollars to make large corporations take notice is really the only viable option left to them, and is the cornerstone of true capitalism. Not surprised that someone who parrots the party line, and endorses the socialist control of the milk boilers, would have a problem with true capitalism.
Indeed Whole Foods needs to get the message….as is the goal of every ‘boycott’…but it is a far cry from the message that you try and hang on them. The Foundation is founded on education, and its obvious that those who control Whole Foods needs a bit more information about what a really healthy diet is.