NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Small Farms are Hurt by Regulations

January 27, 2003

If traditional methods of cheese-making and meat-curing have worked for centuries in Europe, the argument goes, why ban them in America? According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), state and federal regulations governing the nation's meat and dairy supply are supposed to guarantee safe, quality food products.

But the rules are actually tailored to benefit mass agriculture producers at the expense of small farmers -- who are feeding a growing niche market with organically grown foods and a variety of range-fed animals. The small farms are less able to absorb the costs of compliance with new regulations, according to National Review.

  • Also hurt are consumers -- who are denied the opportunity to purchase meat and dairy products that taste better, and which may be better for them (or, at least, not as harmful as the government fears).
  • Small farmers say the current system doesn't guarantee safety at all, and may even make American meat more risky.
  • Besides the issue of antibiotics and hormones, there's the more serious matter of food-borne pathogens.
  • Some argue that factory-farming livestock in crowded, diseased feedlots and the rapid, assembly-line processing of meat through a handful of slaughterhouses before it is dispersed throughout the country create ideal conditions for epidemic contamination.

No one, however, is arguing government health rules are unnecessary. Most small farmers only want them to be reasonable, simplified and flexible.

Keith Collins, the USDA's chief economist, says small organic farmers account for only 2 percent of America's vast food market, "but their share is growing very fast." For several reasons, more people are seeking out traditionally raised food, which, whatever you think of health concerns, tastes better.

Source: Rod Dreher, "USDA -- Disapproved," National Review, January 27, 2003.


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