The country’s economy was humming along in 1989 when a then-unknown filmmaker, Michael Moore, came out with a movie in which one memorable character was a woman named Rhonda Britton, who sold rabbits for “Pets or Meat.”
Today, insecurity about jobs and housing is making most of the United States feel like the down-and-out residents of Flint, MI who Moore depicted in “Roger & Me.”
And just as in the “Pets or Meat” scene, when a rabbit fights back forcing Britton to take the animal out with a lead pipe, we may be about to find out just how a down-and-out economy can wreak havoc on food safety standards.
The Tea Party rebellion, with its emphasis on fiscal discipline and limited regulation, propelled Republicans to the takeover of 20 state legislative chambers with a near all-time high pickup of 675 legislative seats by the Grand Old Party.
Wyoming and Wisconsin are examples of this phenomenon. Both legislative chambers and the governor’s offices are now in Republican hands.
Wisconsin’s Senate and Assembly last year passed legislation making the production and sale of raw milk legal, but former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed it.
Raw milk is back in 2011, and already Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s new Republican chief executive, has said he will sign the bill legalizing unpasteurized milk.
Wisconsin’s half-century ban on the sale and production of raw milk has been under attack for the last two years, since 35 participants in a cow share scheme were poisoned by raw milk.
Last year’s bill, vetoed by Gov. Doyle, provided the legal right to sell raw milk under a one-year trial program. Grade A producers would be required to become state certified, conduct testing, and identify operators on the labels of each bottle or container.
Raw milk advocates are waiting for the report of the Wisconsin Raw Milk Task Force before writing a 2011 bill. Doyle empanelled the group last year. In his veto message, Doyle cited the need to protect Wisconsin’s $26 billion pasteurized dairy industry from a raw milk disaster.
In the Cowboy State, which has resisted items from the “Pets or Meat” menu for the past three years, three such bills are back with support from the powerful Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands, and Water Resources Interim Committee. They include:
Wyoming Traditional Food Act: No licensure, permitting, certification, inspection, packaging or labeling can be required by the state or any political subdivision for preparation, serving use, consumption or storage of foods at a “traditional event.” The bill would exempt family and community events from any regulatory oversight.
Wyoming Food Freedom Act: Sale and consumption of homemade foods sold at farmers markets and at ranch, farm, and home sales would be permitted without any licensing and inspection for products sold by a producer directly to a consumer for home consumption only within the State of Wyoming.
Raw Milk Act: While continuing to generally prohibit the retail sale and distribution of raw milk, the Wyoming HB 0017 permits so-called cow and goat share programs as a method for non-farmers to receive raw milk. Herd sizes are limited to five (5) lactating cows, and ten (10) lactating goats.
In the past three years, former Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal’s food safety task force and local health officials managed to keep this trio of bills from going anywhere.