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Beefs and Beliefs

USDA needs to get out of the regulation business

Varijanta-iStock-Thinkstock USDA labels such as natural, organic
Letting USDA regulate marketing programs cannot lead to anything but more government control and coercion.
Despite crying by the naysayers, USDA's withdrawal of organic animal welfare regulation is a win.

I've noticed the social media twits are aflame because USDA withdrew one if its organic rules -- in this case a rule which tried to define and regulate animal welfare as part of the organic standards.

I say bring on more deregulation.

I'm all for farmer-direct marketing to consumers, whatever the product, but I'm rarely and perhaps never in favor of government coercion to force people into a regulatory box. If your mousetrap is really better, then you should be able to show the consumer why and make the sale.

Regulations raise the cost of doing business and are usually skewed to benefit the political cronies who supported the regulatory structure by greasing the palms of the bureaucrats who write the rules. Call it crony capitalism or crapitalism, but in reality it's socialism, busy at work.

This is nicely stated many times in a book I've been reading called No, They Can't: Why government fails--but individuals succeed, by Fox News business reporter John Stossel. I don't always agree with Stossel, especially when he writes on the complex topic of agriculture, but here are two great analogies Stossel drew in his book:

1. What intuition tempts us to believe: Food rules are a minor nuisance.

What reality taught me: Every government rule is backed by force.

2. What intuition tempts us to believe: The food police want to help us make better choices.

What reality taught me: Government has guns. Police take away choices.

Bravo Mr. Stossel!

We need to go further. Let's repeal all the specialty-food regulations such as organic and grass-fed and natural. It should be the job of the food sellers to define their products, whether a farmer or a corporate salesman or the just labels on a cereal box. If consumers are expected and allowed to take more responsibility for their choices, I fully believe they will rise to the occasion.

Keep those deregulations coming.

I honestly can't say at what point I believe we should keep regulations instead of repealing them. Somewhere along the path that actually deals with food safety there may be room for regulatory oversight. It's a public discussion the people need to have instead of letting bureaucrats decide for them.

However, I must say I suspect it's not the USDA that made our food safe and plentiful, but our great open markets and capitalist spirit, perhaps blended with our once-strong Judeo-Christian self-discipline and accountability. If our belief in God was the strongest agent of that formula, then I know we are in trouble. But rules cannot replace morality.

Instead of regulation, I suspect we need another great spiritual awakening like the one which swept American and England in the 1700s.

Merry Christmas!

TAGS: Beef Livestock
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