Thursday, June 20, 2013

California AB 224 - First Death Knell for CSA's

Supposedly this legislation is being proposed because the California Department of Environmental Health has threatened to regulate CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) as Retail Food Establishments.  Reading their own regulations - California Retail Food Code - I seriously doubt they would be successful but they could try and cause a lot of people a lot of headaches and legal costs.  The regulations have a clear exemption for farmers making direct sales.  However the threat was enough that some local food activists got together with a few elected officials and started drafting legislation to regulate CSAs.

On the surface the initial regulations are not onerous - the dangerous part is that they grant the authority for Environmental Health to regulate CSAs at all.  Once that power is granted the actual regulations can be changed without elected official involvement.  And regulations - as we all know - always get more strict, not less.

The summary of AB 224 in it's current form (it is still changing as the legislation is going through the Capital) is as follows:
  • CSAs will need to register with Environmental Health (EH) and pay an annual $100 fee. 
  • Classify themselves as either single farm or multiple farm with EH.
  • Every CSA will be required to use the agricultural practices defined and published by the Environmental Health Department. 
  • A CSA that brings together produce from multiple farms must declare to EH which farms will be included in the next year and they are not allowed to deliver produce from farms excluded from that list. 
  • CSAs will be required to charge their customers on a pre-payment basis.
  • CSAs will need to comply with the labeling and container standards developed by EH including putting the name and address of the farm on the delivery box, maintaining the boxes in a clean condition, providing a printed list in the box or electronically of the farm of origin of each item in the box, and maintain records as to the contents and origins of each box.
Paperwork, fees, and useless regulation.  How many of you enrolled in a CSA don't know which farm it is coming from?

It is just a bad idea to let EH regulate CSAs.  But even beyond that I think there could be further unintended consequences.

  • AB 224 will require a producer to use the agricultural practices defined and published by the Environmental Health Department.  Yet we have not seen these published practices so as to ascertain whether they would add substantial costs to a small farm operation.  I am sure some, if not all, of the Food Safety Modernization Act's regulations are going to be incorporated by EH in their "published agricultural practices".  Without exclusion for small farms this effectively could place small farms back under the Food Safety Modernization Act's regulations.
  • There are many different agricultural practices in use in California - some as new and innovative (and environmentally beneficial) as "organic" was 40 years ago.  The Environmental Health Department is not an agriculturally savvy department and I find it chilling to think their sterile approach to food safety time get applied to agriculture.
  • EH should not be dictating how CSA financial transactions are conducted.  Pre-payment is a ridiculous requirement that has nothing to do with food safety.
Personally I think food distributors are behind this push to regulation.  The CSAs are cutting into their market and they don't like it.  But I don't think these large corporations should dictate how a family gets it's vegetables!

I encourage those of you who enjoy the CSA model to write your elected officials and tell them to just kill AB 224 and leave CSAs, and other farm direct models, alone!

Update:  This post was written as the Community Alliance of Family Farmers and other farm organizations were providing comments to the draft regulations.  While the final regulations changed the registration and interaction to be with the CA Dept of Food and Ag instead of EH there are still requirements to meet EH standards for Ag.  I have not seen those published yet (although I have not looked either).  

I believe strongly it was a bad idea for CSAs to accept this level of regulation merely on the threat of being regulated as a Retail Food Establishment.  Particularly when EH legislation expressly forbids EH to regulate direct farm sales.  I think the CSAs were tricked into accepting this based on a non-existent threat.

Hormones for Hogs to Prevent Boar Taint

There is a new “treatment” called Improvest being offered to hog producers that claims to prevent boar taint in meat without having to castrate male piglets.  Boar taint is an off/gamey smell and taste in the meat of un-castrated pigs.  Improvest claims to eliminate the boar taint without castration and it is comprised of Gonadotropin Releasing Factor Analog-Diphtheria Toxoid Conjugate.  I had to look up what that meant. 

Gonadotropins are hormones so this appears to be a treatment that causes the male hogs to produce and/or release hormones they would not otherwise have in their bodies.  There are no approve growth hormones for pigs yet somehow the FDA has approved Improvest.  The article claims that the only reason it is not more broadly used right now is that meat packers don't trust that it will eliminate boar taint and thus still won't accept un-castrated hogs.

The FDA claims to be protecting consumers yet approves something like this without much research.  I just read where estrogen in full fat cow milk was being attributed to an increase in mortality in breast cancer survivors...what happens when Gonadotropins are present in pig meat?

You can read more at:  The Pig Site

Friday, March 30, 2012

You have a right to own a goat!

As an American you have a right to own a goat - or sheep or cow - as long as you keep it in good health and in a facility zoned for such an animal. But in California recent regulatory actions seek to prohibit you from that right. For some reason the CDFA is acting as though it was illegal to own a goat and pay some one else to milk it for you. Neither of these activities are illegal under California or Federal law.

At issue are the private contracts between groups of people called "herd shares". In these contracts a group of people buy a herd of dairy animals and pay a farmer to milk them. They then share in the dairy products produced by their animals. These are not simple contracts and the people who enter into them know the implications and long-term commitments they are making. They are not guaranteed specific production - what they get is dependent on what their animals produce based on feed, time of year, and health of the animals. The only difference between this arrangement and owning one animal youself is that the group of investors is paying someone to board and milk the animals.

Boarding animals is not illegal - you can board dogs, cats, and horses rather readily in any city. Is it so strange that someone might board a goat or cow?

Paying someone to milk your animal is not illegal. I would venture to guess that EVERY large dairy has at least one employee that helps with milking. This is exactly the same type of relationship herd share owners have and its not illegal.

The CDFA says that participating in a herdshare is just a way of getting around dairy laws. But having your own animals and getting their milk for your own purpose is very different than providing milk into the commercial milk supply chain. If you were to accept the CDFA argument it would mean you could not milk your own goat without a Class A dairy license.

Read more about the issues being faced in California at: and

Backdoor attempt to shut down small farmers

Sometimes I feel like I am in the Twilight Zone. Or that government officials have given up all logical thought and reason. It seems the Michigan Dept of Natural Resources is poised to declare feral hogs an "invasive species" with dire consequences to farmers who pasture their hogs!

Read the full article here:

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Another Government Agency Gone Crazy

Many of my liberal friends like regulations. And in their intended form and with practical implementation I would agree that some regulations are important. But most regulations have gone way too far and have become a way for government to remind us that they run things. A way to impose their will even if it is not for the general good.

There is a conservation group trying to save the whooping crane by raising chicks and teaching them their traditional (but now extinct) migration routes. Thousands of volunteer hours go into this effort. They hope to re-establish a wild population. Who could be against this goal and the ethical way they go about trying to reach it? Apparently the FAA is.

The pilots who "teach" the young cranes the ancient migration routes by leading them in small aircraft have been grounded by the FAA because they are paid by the conservation group. These are pilots who fly over 1000 miles in an ultra light leading birds. The FAA objects to them being PAID for this effort as apparently it is against the regulations of their pilot's license.

If they did the job for free there would be no violation. That leads me to believe there is no safety issue because whether they are paid or not makes no difference on the type of aircraft they fly, their route, their credentials, etc. Its just a technicality - they are being paid. The FAA does not like that.

From the article:

"Now the birds and the plane are grounded in Alabama while the Federal Aviation Administration investigates whether the journey violates regulations because the pilot was being paid by a conservation group to lead the cranes on their first migration instead of working for free."

Aside from being totally absurd this is a waste of my tax dollars by the FAA. Do they have such a surplus that they can regulate ultralight pilots leading birds around? Wouldn't their time be better spent investigating the abuses of offshore maintenance facilities utilized by the major commercial air carriers? Where are their priorities?

When talking abour regulations some people say "but they would never enforce the regulation in THAT way". Unfortunately yes, they would.

Read the whole article here.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

More unnecessary government regulation

It seems like everyday I hear about some new regulation that will affect our life here on the farm. Different agencies dictating what we grow, what we don't grow, how we grow it, and where we can sell it. It is mind boggling. Those who don't farm cannot possibly comprehend the scale of these regulations. When I lived in the city I had no idea!

The latest shocking affront comes from the Department of Transportation (DOT) which has proposed new standards that would require all people operating farm equipment to obtain a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) - you know, the kind long-haul truckers must have - in order to operate any farming equipment EVEN ON THE FARM PROPERTY. The agency is going to accomplish this by reclassifying all farm vehicles and implements as Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs).

What does this mean to farmers? Anyone operating motorized farming equipment would need to pass the CDL test and keep the same logs and paperwork as long-haul truckers. This means things like hours worked and how far the vehicle traveled. Of course the DOT with their "we know better than you" wisdom fails to realize that most tractors don't have an odometer - they measure engine hours.

Not only is this ridiculous but its an invasion of privacy - they want this type of compliance for using farm equipment on your own private property. To what end? There is no purpose or benefit to all this extra paperwork and reporting. There is no public safety issue related to tired or unsafe drivers. I just cannot see the justification for it. But the outcome will be more burden and cost to farmers. And to some it may be the last straw.

To read more go to:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Shortage of Slaughterhouses

The young "local, natural, and humane" meat movement is already being stifled by the lack of local, small, humane slaughter facilities. Farmers have been aware of this issue for some time and now awareness seems to be rising amongst people who enjoy local meats. Here is a NY Times Article that focuses on the situation in California. I have also recently heard that the few remaining slaughter facilities in Northern California are raising their minimum animal limit - meaning a farmer has to bring in at least 20 pigs at a time or 600 chickens. That is pretty tough to do for a small farm. I am constantly getting calls from farmers who used to use these facilities and now are shut out. It really puts a damper on the availability of local meats.