Joel Salatin’s Testimony on Food Freedom in Maine
Senator Edgecomb, Representative Hickman, and other distinguished members of the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry: my name is Joel Salatin from Virginia and I am here to testify in favor of LD 783, a constitutional amendment to establish a right to food. I’m a farmer, eater, and more importantly, custodian of a 3 trillion member internal community of bacterial beings energizing my personhood.
The only reason the founders of our great republic did not include food rights alongside the right to bear arms, to speak, and to worship was because no one at that time could have envisioned a day when citizens could not acquire the food of their choice from the source of their choice.
Prior to fairly modern times, people depended on their communities for food. Production, preserving, processing, and packaging were all done in a fairly transparent relational transaction. Shoddy participants experienced community censure to maintain hygiene and standards.
With the rise of the industrial food system, this accountability by the commons was replaced by governmental administrative bureaucracy. An opaque industrial food system created a desire in the culture for oversight. That oversight has arguably become just as opaque and industrial as the entity it was created to police. Instead of consenting adults voluntarily self-actualizing their decision-making freedom to private contract, regulators began defining and manipulating food commerce.
Large industrial food businesses curried favor with regulators and politicians who empowered them. Gradually an unholy alliance between industrial food and farm enterprises and the regulatory fraternity, encouraged by an increasingly paranoid, ignorant, and disenfranchised consuming populace, demonized, marginalized, and criminalized historic freedom of choice through the food commons.
Butter and lard were out; hydrogenated vegetable oil was in. Raw milk was out; Coke and Mountain Dew were in. Homemade quiche was out; microwavable hot pockets with unpronounceable ingredients were in. As the official USDA food pyramid wreaks its havoc on the population by encouraging carbohydrates and empty calories, many citizens realize government-sanctioned food and farming bankrupt our health and wellness.
Many of us yearn to opt out of this enslaving orthodoxy. We prefer homemade anything, knowing our farmers, loving compost piles, animals that don’t do drugs, and acquiring most of our food from sources we vet through personal knowledge or the scuttlebutt wafting through the commons.
But to our dismay, we’ve found our choices blocked. We can’t buy the wholesome quiche from our neighbor. In order to sell me her unadulterated, small-ingredient quiche, she must capitalize a commercial kitchen and navigate a labyrinth of licenses, compliances, and infrastructure. The result is that my government denies me the freedom to purchase food through my commons. I can’t exercise freedom of choice; I must depend on administrative regulators to determine my body’s fuel.
I can’t imagine a more basic human right, a more bi-partisan issue, than protecting my right to choose my body’s food. Who could possibly think that such freedom of choice should be denied? We allow people to smoke, shoot, preach, home educate, spray their yards with chemicals, buy lottery tickets, and read about the Kardashians: wouldn’t you think we could let people choose their food?
It is time to give us back the food freedom our ancestors enjoyed. Freedom is not a focus group exercise. If we can’t taste freedom, we can only talk about it, and that leaves liberty hollow. It’s time for us to embrace the innovation and food security solutions that granting a fundamental right to food engenders. You’ve been gracious to let me address you this afternoon. Now please do the right thing and vote yes on LD 783.
Amendment LD 783 reads as follows, “Right to food. Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to food and to acquire food for that individual’s own nourishment and sustenance by hunting, gathering, foraging, farming, fishing or gardening or by barter, trade or purchase from sources of that individual’s own choosing, and every individual is fully responsible for the exercise of this right, which may not be infringed.”