Volatility

March 5, 2012

The Struggle of Vernon Hershberger and Food Sovereignty

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The “Food Safety” regime is a gaggle of perps who fit the description of cowardly bullies in every way.
 
For example, their goal is to enforce the total criminalization of milk, legalizing only pasteurized corporate milk product. They proclaimed in principle their prerogative to arrest and prosecute people for possessing and consuming real milk.
 

In its March 16 response to the judge’s questions, FDA took the position that “a person who purchases unpasteurized milk in one state with the intent to take it to another state (either for personal use or to distribute to others) is engaging in interstate commerce.” As for consumers who cross state lines intending to take raw milk back home for personal use, FDA stated that it “has never sought to bring an enforcement action against a person because he or she crossed a state boundary to purchase and return with raw milk solely for his or her own use, and FDA has no present intent to bring an action against such a person in the future. Nevertheless…the hypothetical interstate traveler in this example would have ‘caused’ raw milk ‘to be delivered into interstate commerce’ in violation of 21 C.F.R. §1240.61.

 
But in practice they’ve steered clear of such inflammatory action. And when directly defied by the Raw Milk Freedom Riders, the thugs backed down and publicly declared they had no intention of persecuting individual milk drinkers. (This was a fine example of direct action accomplishing what “channels” had failed to accomplish and could never accomplish.)
 
Instead, the battle plan is to attack the dairy farmers. The strategy is to target them and shut them down one at a time, in the process generating enough of an atmosphere of intimidation and fear that the rest will give up. Targeted persecution has already claimed at least one scalp, that of Pennsylvania Amish dairyman Dan Allgyer. So far I haven’t heard of any farmers shutting down on their own, though.
 
While we can’t criticize individual farmers for doing what they feel they need to do, we do know that we need as many farmers and milk drinkers as possible to defy this assault and refuse to knuckle under.
 
That’s why the struggle of Vernon Hershberger is so important and deserving of support. Here’s one of the targeted farmers refusing to comply, directly defiant, refusing to give up. Although under indictment for selling milk in defiance of Wisconsin bureaucratic fiat and free on bail under conditions forbidding him to continue producing milk, he has continued to supply his customers.*
 
[*If you go to milk blogs like David Gumpert’s The Complete Patient, you’ll find lots of discussion of the technical contractual nature of the operations of Hershberger and others, how these are purely private contracts beyond state purview, etc. While this sometimes may be important in the courtroom (in practice it seldom seems to be; judges decide according to their pro-corporate prejudices, or, rarely, their lack of such prejudice), it’s a technical detail from the point of view of Food Sovereignty principle. Our principle is our right to produce and eat the foods of our choice. The corporate/government system has no right to interfere, period. To get mired in technicalities, as a matter of principle, is at least implicitly to concede that in some contexts the system has any authority or legitimacy whatsoever, as long as they’re punctilious about the right procedure.]
 
Hershberger, now slated to go on trial September 25th, just won a round in court. The judge, with some asperity, refused the prosecution’s demand that Hershberger’s bail be revoked on account of his continuing to supply his customers with milk. This does indeed flout the conditions of his bail, and Hershberger openly declares that he revokes his previous agreement and will continue his civil disobedience.
 

If our farm stopped feeding its owners’ families, there will be literally hundreds of children who will suffer malnutrition and even starvation. Your honor, I would much rather spend the rest of my life behind bars or even die than to be found guilty of such a gross sin before the Almighty God.

I am proud of what I am doing. There is nothing wrong with peacefully providing food to members of my community who want it. The state might put me in jail, but they cannot stop people from feeding their neighbors.

 
Nevertheless the judge let him go, albeit with new warnings. Hershberger says he’ll continue on his course of action. Hundreds in Wisconsin are rallying to his cause, assembling at the courthouse and heading over to the farm to help out and to bear witness.
 
Upon leaving the courthouse, Hershberger was the first to sign a new document, the Declaration of Food Independence.
 
Unfortunately, this document is wrongly conceived. We see the problem in the first clause.
 

In a spirit of humility and with respect for both the just law of the land and Natural Law, we declare that, inherent in every individual is the God-given right to procure the food of one’s choice from consenting farmers and producers.

 
The first principle of Food Sovereignty is that we the people have the right to grow and produce our own food. Only second to that, where we choose not to or cannot produce for ourselves, do we come to the right to procure food from the farmer of our choice.
 
This distinction is critical for economic and political democracy, since democracy requires that we abolish and transcend the artificial dichotomy of producer vs. consumer. This dichotomy is the basis of every kind of economic tyranny. The Declaration clause as written remains mired in this false dichotomy, and therefore leaves the door open for all sorts of “co-existence” with corporate and government concepts, structures, and thug mechanisms. (It’s also incoherent to say we have a “god-given right” to buy food wherever we want, but not to grow it ourselves. That would be one strange god.)
 
The problem for many of these people is that real food rights like that to grow our own food imply the right of access to the land to grow food. In its strong form, Food Sovereignty means only those who grow food or are otherwise productive have any right to be on the land at all. In other words, it would overthrow the existing regime of property in land. (Which would be in accord with John Locke’s original labor theory of property. But the whole practice of Western practical system ideology, starting with the later, well-invested Locke himself, has been to flout the productive principle in favor of parasites. Food Sovereignty, and economic democracy in broad form, would purge all parasites from the earth.)
 
 
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14 Comments

  1. CHS recently spoke on regulation as a means of destroying competition: http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.com/2012/02/perfection-of-crony-capitalism-use.html

    The first principle of Food Sovereignty is that we the people have the right to grow and produce our own food. Only second to that, where we choose not to or cannot produce for ourselves, do we come to the right to procure food from the farmer of our choice.

    Interesting, isn’t it, that the declaration is stated in consumer and not producer terms. You saw it, too . . .

    This distinction is critical for economic and political democracy, since democracy requires that we abolish and transcend the artificial dichotomy of producer vs. consumer. This dichotomy is the basis of every kind of economic tyranny.

    What precisely is an “economic democracy,” and who has suffrage in it? How do we understand the majority that rules an economic democracy? Do the people who cannot afford to buy anything have any say? And is it proper to equate economic and political democracy?

    The problem for many of these people is that real food rights like that to grow our own food imply the right of access to the land to grow food. In its strong form, Food Sovereignty means only those who grow food or are otherwise productive have any right to be on the land at all. In other words, it would overthrow the existing regime of property in land. (Which would be in accord with John Locke’s original labor theory of property. But the whole practice of Western practical system ideology, starting with the later, well-invested Locke himself, has been to flout the productive principle in favor of parasites. Food Sovereignty, and economic democracy in broad form, would purge all parasites from the earth.)

    Food sovereignty is a wonderfully neutral term that empowers. Economic democracy, on the other hand, is a term that undercuts the concept of food sovereignty as the majority of economic “voters” are against it. There can be no such thing as economic democracy when the money supply is privately held and controlled. And putting “economic democracy” on equal footing with “political democracy” cheapens the latter and ultimately strengthens the conclusion of Citizens United, i.e., that money is speech.

    Locke succeeded in twisting things to the parasites’ advantage, as he was paid to do, because the masses stopped listening when he used words they thought understood and agreed to everything else without a thought. Locke was a propagandist of the first order.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — March 5, 2012 @ 1:49 am

    • What precisely is an “economic democracy,” and who has suffrage in it? How do we understand the majority that rules an economic democracy? Do the people who cannot afford to buy anything have any say? And is it proper to equate economic and political democracy?

      In my last comment I disposed of the pernicious reduction of democracy to “voting”. That’s the denuded meaning on whose behalf you wish to contest. The entire thrust of this blog has long contested and rejected such kettling.

      As I’ve described many times, and again in the last comment, economic democracy is human participation, self-assertion, and self-management in the economic realm. Think workers running the factories. Growers running cooperative farms.

      It probably means the absence of money, so I can’t respond to your mismatched line about “affording to buy anything”. Economic democracy, in any particular manifestation, would fluctuate somewhere between “he who does not work shall not eat” and “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”.

      It should go without saying, “needs” is defined in a human way, not a consumerist/capitalist way.

      As for the relation of economic and political democracy, there can be some conflict there. Is the “right” final form of an anarchist society a confederation of worker syndicates, or is it a political community? Is power split between political community assemblies and worker syndicates based on the “political” vs. “economic” nature of a particular issue?

      I have no obligation to give clear-cut answers to such questions right now. Such things will work themselves out in the act of building the new. But all such concepts are so antithetical to what we have now, and the differences among them so miniscule by comparison with this abyss, that I see no reason not to range political and economic democracy together as affiliated. They’re practically synonyms compared to corporatist kleptocracy.

      There can be no such thing as economic democracy when the money supply is privately held and controlled.

      I agree completely. And that’s tantamount to ruling out “the money supply” as such, since there’s no non-scam distinction between “private” and “public” centralized, concentrated hierarchies.

      (I may be revisiting MMT and its shortcomings for a short post along those lines. As I jotted down some notes I was thinking you’d likely agree with them. Now I wonder if you’re heading toward a rapprochement with it.)

      Food sovereignty is a wonderfully neutral term that empowers. Economic democracy, on the other hand, is a term that undercuts the concept of food sovereignty as the majority of economic “voters” are against it.

      No one’s here is calling for a Western parasite-loaded “vote” on growing our own food on our, the people’s land. With positive democracy, one’s action is one’s franchise. Citizenship is defined by one’s good will to work. But here you want to reinstate the producer/consumer divide and hold a vote with a consumerist-rigged election. You’re right, the result of such a fraud wouldn’t be in much doubt. It’s the same kind of scam as the “tragedy of the commons”, or Hobbesian notions of the “state of nature”.

      The point is never to concede anything to the inertia of the status quo, to which most people are always going to submit, not because they affirmatively “vote for it”, but because they don’t know what else to do. The point is always to strive to transcend and abolish the status quo.

      Comment by Russ — March 5, 2012 @ 3:53 am

      • The point is always to strive to transcend and abolish the status quo.

        Perhaps one approach to doing that is to avoid distinguishing between politics and economics, or better yet, make it clear that you cannot distinguish between them. Only a century go, economics were referred to as “political economy.” Why not give that profession its real name back, instead of honoring the label that pretends political economy is values-free? How can there be political sovereignty when there is no economic sovereignty?

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — March 5, 2012 @ 10:45 pm

      • In my last comment I disposed of the pernicious reduction of democracy to “voting”.

        First, when I wrote the comment to which you responded, I had not seen your response to my prior comment. Second, as demonstrated by my what I just said, you cannot assume that you have disposed of anything when you are trying to create a movement.

        That’s because movements by their very nature, well, move. You may think you’ve accomplished something, but leading change requires constant upkeep to keep that change on course. If you’re lucky, you get two steps forward followed by one step back. More often than not, you get two steps forward followed by three steps back. You NEVER can “move on” when you are the leader. You constantly have to deal with the biases and fears of those who follow you. I wish it were easier to be a leader, but it isn’t, unless you are willing to lie to those who follow you, which neither one of us is. Personally, I don’t want anybody following me that doesn’t truly know what I’m leading to, which is why I’ve encouraged you to avoid using iconic language that swamps reason, but you have to chart your own course. I’m just giving advice that you can use or not.

        But let’s be clear. The reason I’m offering unsolicited advice is because I choose not to lead in this instance. What we’re proposing here is so far outside the boundaries of what most people view as acceptable that it is a non-starter. My advice is intended to help make the proposal CLEARER, not to obscure it, as your preferred language does (in my opinion). Again, though, you are still fighting the good fight when I and other former fellow travelers that I know have given up because of our concern that the masses are crying out to be manipulated, and we have no desire to accept that challenge.

        People need to decide for themselves with their eyes, and hearts, wide open. That’s the only way fundamental change can occur. And your meaning cannot be co-opted when it is unambiguous and not subject to interpretation.

        I’m happy to find a way to get together the next time I’m on the east coast, which is looking like late May.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — March 6, 2012 @ 12:47 am

      • Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound like I thought you were ignoring other responses. I’d seen both of your comments when I wrote these replies – I was just referring you and others to the previous comment so I didn’t have to repeat myself.

        Thanks for the advice. Maybe I’ve dwelt with these ideas so long that I mistake their clarity, but I just don’t see what’s so allegedly unclear about what I’m saying. Yes, if someone knew nothing other than that “the Volatility blog is about democracy”, he might think anything, and might not move on to check it out if he had whatever prejudice against that word.

        But like I said, I can’t worry about such hazy hypotheticals. The same would be true of any one-line description. Meanwhile, I still think anyone who actually read even a little bit of what I write could never completely mistake me, and anyone who read more than a little couldn’t mistake me at all.

        That still leaves the question of whether or not it’s worth fighting for the term and concept democracy. I’ve given my reasons for believing it is worth it. It’s right in itself, it’s broadly appealing (and therefore even if you think it may attract many “false positives”, I think that’s the best way to turn some of them into real positives), and by its nature it can be adapted to many decentralization scenarios, like the ones paper mac describes in the previous thread.

        I’d be glad to get together when you’re on the East coast, if you’re able. We can e-mail about it. (I have your e-mail here; I forget if you have mine from my comments at your blog.)

        Comment by Russ — March 6, 2012 @ 3:26 am

  2. A good new post today on what happens when a citizen refuses to be pushed around, while others bear witness.

    http://www.thecompletepatient.com/journal/2012/3/4/in-the-game-within-the-game-vernon-hershberger-is-rapidly-em.html

    Granted, the environment here is different from an Occupy-type action, and for now the thugs react differently. But it’s still a basic education in what we all must do, in every context.

    Comment by Russ — March 5, 2012 @ 10:19 am

  3. you make a good point, Russ, when you say “we the people have the right to grow and produce our own food. Only second to that, where we choose not to or cannot produce for ourselves, do we come to the right to procure food from the farmer of our choice.”

    this idea deserves much more attention… I might write something up and will link to this idea you raise.

    good thinking!

    Comment by Rady — March 5, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

    • Thanks, Rady! I look forward to your post.

      Comment by Russ — March 5, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

  4. Food Sovereignty is freedom from the feudal fiefdom of capital.

    By demanding Food Sovereignty, and the right of occupation of idled and unproductive land, we find our greatest moral weapons.

    Comment by Ross — March 5, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

    • I agree. Although we must critique land property as such, our main thrust can always be against idle land, wasted land, REO (real estate-owned) land, corporate land, 1% land.

      Comment by Russ — March 5, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

  5. I just went hunting for the Food Declaration and cannot find it. Did you copy it, Russ?

    Comment by Rady — March 18, 2012 @ 9:11 pm

    • It looks like some of the links at my blog are broken because Gumpert also just set up a new site for The Complete Patient. It was actually difficult to find the full text (which is short) of the Declaration when I wrote that post. Gumpert only belatedly added a link to a page which had it. I couldn’t find the link from Gumpert just now, but this page has the whole text.

      http://www.naturalnews.com/035129_Declaration_of_Food_Independence_raw_milk_freedom.html

      Declaration of Food Independence – introduced into Common Law on Friday, March 2, 2012, and signed by the People

      In a spirit of humility and with respect for both the just law of the land and Natural Law, we declare that, inherent in every individual is the God-given right to procure the food of one’s choice from consenting farmers and producers.

      The undersigned respectfully declare that we will peacefully reject laws and regulations that infringe on this God-given right.

      We are willing to suffer the consequences rather than comply with laws and regulations that deny people the sovereignty to choose their own foods or deny producers the authority to engage directly with consumers.

      For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of God, we mutually pledge to each other our commitment to protect and secure this right ourselves, all individuals, and our mutual posterity.

      I think it’s good as long as we change it to “grow and choose” rather than just “choose”.

      Comment by Russ — March 19, 2012 @ 7:47 am

  6. […] organic has to mean the abolition and transcendence of the artificial producer/consumer dichotomy. Even within the food sovereignty movement this dichotomy is often insensibly taken for granted. But in truth these concepts can never be […]

    Pingback by What Is Organic? (2 of 2) « Volatility — March 30, 2012 @ 2:41 am


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