Antibiotics in our food systems

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Hi everyone,

I am a huge fan of Thom's and listen regularly. I just caught the end of a conversation about a new ruling that requires livestock producers to get a prescription before administering antibiotics to their animals.

From a consumer viewpoint, I welcome any movement towards ending the horrendous conditions in meat production that results in Ecoli and the extreme over-use and abuse of antibiotics in food animals. However, as a very, very small farmer that raises just a few animals at a time by hand, I am often disheartened by the blunt instruments used to achieve rational goals. I have antibiotics in my fridge and when a goat cuts her leg or a sheep start coughing, I will dose them, conservatively, to save their health and preserve the health of the herd or flock.

This maybe takes place a few times a year. Not routinely. But, I can state emphatically that the margins of a tiny farm like mine are very thin indeed and if I have to call a vet to come out ($80 "housecall fee" before she steps out of the truck), I simply could no longer raise the 3-6 lambs and 6 pigs a year I raise and sell to friends and family. Not to mention, the vet can't always come. It's simply a fact bourn out by myself and every farmer I know that small farmers can exist only if they can take care of the majority of the medical emergencies that arise.

Even with Michael Pollan and the localvore movement seemingly epidemic, I am constatnly amazed at the invisibility of the small and micro farmer. Rather than sweeping regulations that will drive farms like ours under and very possibly be "worked around" by the big producers, we need regulatory support and effective incentives that grow small farms and increase consumer access to responsibly-grown produce and animal products and make factory farming cost prohibitive.

My 2 cents.

islandfarmer
Joined:
Apr. 11, 2012 12:33 pm

Comments

You are in the same boat as the average small business. All the legislation being bought is in the favor of big business and that means stepping on small business to get what they want. Very soon small business will be forced out and find themselves begging for work like everyone else that can't afford to "buy" legislation. This country is going backwards socially and economically and democratically. A new Rome seems to be emerging.

Bush_Wacker's picture
Bush_Wacker
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Jun. 25, 2011 7:53 am

Oh, the New Rome has been her for some time. The good news is that the future is being organized around a real, locally-based economy of small, hands-on food providers and community need. We cannot depend upon the supermarkets and the trucks to feed us. Industrial food processing is not working for health and nutrition. That system will try to crush the other, but it is not going to win.

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DRC
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote DRC:

Oh, the New Rome has been her for some time. The good news is that the future is being organized around a real, locally-based economy of small, hands-on food providers and community need. We cannot depend upon the supermarkets and the trucks to feed us. Industrial food processing is not working for health and nutrition. That system will try to crush the other, but it is not going to win.

Everything islandfarmer said -- and much more like it -- is facing those of us in that movement too, DRC. We know of it, we track it all over the U.S. There is a huge minefield of things like that to be concerned about. We face all sorts of macro "blunt instrument" threats to our many localizing strategies when we have to conform to forms that have nothing to do with our own, hand-crafted ways of working out a living process that suits our local circumstances. The form of the "states' rights versus the Federal government" argument finds itself in what we do at the local level, as well. It can be us against our own state as well as the Feds at the same time, especially if one lives next to the ocean with the nationally regulated wetlands and estuaries. There is something very real to that argument that is part of an ongoing national contradiction.

The contradiction of arguing for a stronger central government that will be protective of individual rights while attempting to develop a grass roots form of life at the local level is impossible to avoid. The potential threat of violating some law and having to deal with expenses that have nothing to do with the eking out of survival as islandfarmer mentions is with us localizers every time we do something for ourselves. That's where you begin to see how important it is to recognize that the actual forces that organize and control us at a macro level (laws and regulations of Washington DC governing process) are so easily stolen by well organized groups that can achieve power, and get things in place for themselves. If those just "happen" to be the leading collective forces of the political economy (those efficient private tyrannies we call corporations), well, then you get to see how empty the idea of macro representative democracy can be in a large geographic space that is outlined and defined as the nation state of more than 300 million people.

.ren's picture
.ren
Joined:
Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

Indeed. And much of OWS is grappling with a new sense of democracy grounded in localism rather than the macro. Or, is it getting the macro back into a positive relationship with the micros? I am encouraging the on the ground indigenous/artisanal because I think the reality and power are found there. The macros can only have meaning and authority if they support the real economy, and 'corporate' is hard-pressed to qualify. I don't want those engaged as you are to lose heart or doubt your practicality.

DRC's picture
DRC
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote DRC:

Indeed. And much of OWS is grappling with a new sense of democracy grounded in localism rather than the macro. Or, is it getting the macro back into a positive relationship with the micros? I am encouraging the on the ground indigenous/artisanal because I think the reality and power are found there. The macros can only have meaning and authority if they support the real economy, and 'corporate' is hard-pressed to qualify. I don't want those engaged as you are to lose heart or doubt your practicality

We may be talking past each other here, DRC.

As Bush_whacker also notes, it's a same problem for small business as well. I've been self employed nearly all my life, I know that first hand. This is not just an ideological issue, it's about real life survival.

The problems are in the details. Laws and regulations are not designed to be flexible to enable personal survival strategies, and positivist legal interpretations make them even less so. And that's the killer part. Corporate is a problem for survival at the local level in a number of ways, not the least of which is the way they can distort and destroy local customs. These are real fundamental differences between a tradition-making society, where traditions come out of people who interact and respond to each other, and a macro nation state of laws imposed rationally. A macro government tries to deal with those problems with a sledge hammere of rationally devised rules, which the corporations themselves can mount expensive counter forces to deal with when their purpose is threatened. The so-called real economy of small and local survival is irrelevant. Real economies were once indigenous cultures all over the world. Most have disappeared under the onslaught of "corporate".

These are real issues effecting real people, people who are often in a fragile position and go down quickly and easily, just as in the small example islandfarmer describes where he's had to quit doing fundamental raising of animals do to regulations that prevent strategies. Those may not be life threatening to a liberal Democrat (or conservative Republican) working for a corporation or government, but they can be to those of us trying to make it on our own, no matter what our political leanings, outside that very well controlled, generally safe, and legally defined system.

The macros have plenty of authority when individuals struggle against life-threatening bureacratic anonymity, because what takes place is not theoretical but something actually happening to an individual and those who are closely related, and who depend on what they do at that level to survive, which is also a kind of meaning, a way of life kind of meaning, what we called in anthropology cultural meaning. Culture is about what comes out of personal relationship. You don't have a personal relationship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. You have rules, they enforce them if you break them. Same with the Building Codes and the building departments if you are a small contractor. And on and on.

Having experienced the bankruptcy of our family farm due to this process back when we struggled to farm organically in the fifties and early sixties, I know the far reaching and devastating effects on a family first hand. Understanding that helps to make sense of the anti government small people in this nation who seem to be shooting themselves in the foot when they want government out of their lives. Especially when they talk first hand about the coercive force that government has over us, which it does through the rule of law and its implacable, bureacratic law enforcement minions and those who can interpret that law as if their interpretation were just and fair.

.ren's picture
.ren
Joined:
Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

Thanks for all the thoughtful commentary. A classic example of what is being discussed: Many of us here on my rural island recently received a survey from the USDA that we were required by law to return. It was clearly aimed at large farms and ranches, but if one answered "yes" to the first question regarding whether one kept ANY animals or produced ANY food for sale, one was required to complete the entire 4-page document and disclose things like how many swine you'd kept in the past 12 months (for me, 2), how many bushels of grain storage capacity you had (I had to look up how much a bushel was and I estimated my total capacity at a whopping 1.14 bushels). It was ludricrous. But, I received the form twice (I delayed while considering not filling it out) AND a phone call from the USDA. I don't even sell at the farmers market, just to be clear! I literally have an honor farm stand that my neighbors buy from.

I understand these are parallel issues to the ones faced by many small businesses, but if people really are serious about increasing their access to local foods grown sustainably, the USDA hounding us to document our grain capacity seems like a pretty clear disincentive.

islandfarmer
Joined:
Apr. 11, 2012 12:33 pm

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