Last year’s “food sovereignty” movement has returned in 2012 with a decidedly mean edge.

New Hampshire is the second state where some lawmakers want to use their criminal code against state employees, producers and even federal officials in order to stop federal enforcement of food safety laws. Utah was the first.

Unlike Utah, the proposed New Hampshire “Food Freedom Act,” does not call for jail time for state employees and food producers. If they run afoul of the act, they could only be charged with class B misdemeanors and fined up to $1,200.

But the measure’s language says “any official, agent, or employee of the government of the United States, or employee of a corporation providing services to the government of the United States that enforces or attempts to enforce a federal act, order, statute, rule or regulation of the government of the United States upon a foodstuff labeled ‘Made in New Hampshire’ shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor.”

If successfully prosecuted under such a measure, a federal employee or contractor could face 12 months in jail and fines up to $2,000.

In the year since President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law, all sorts of food-sovereignty laws have been introduced and in some instances adopted by local governments. The movement gained traction at a few New England town meetings. 

Seldom is it mentioned that the Tester Amendment already carved out a large exemption from the FSMA for small producers. It not only exempts farms with less than $500,000 in annual revenues, but also the sales of farm-harvested or produced food in the same state or even across state lines, so long as it is 275 miles or less.

New Hampshire’s House Bill 1650 is the latest proposal to be rolled out, and it has already been subject to a public hearing.  The Food Freedom bill would label food grown and sold only in the state as “Made in New Hampshire.”

The way sponsoring Rep. Josh Davenport, R-Newmarket, sees it, once the “Made in New Hampshire” label is on a product that is sold only within the state, it would be exempt from federal regulations.

The New Hampshire Farm Bureau, however,  came out in opposition to the bill, saying it goes too far and farmers were not even consulted by the lawmakers who wrote the measure.  

“The real concern here is that we have all manner of onerous federal regulations coming down the pike that are making it illegal to do certain types of business in this state,” Rep. Andrew Manuse, R-Derry, said at the public hearing.  He was an author and sponsor of SB 1650.

The “Made in New Hampshire” brand will demonstrate state sovereignty, according to Manuse.

New Hampshire Agricultural Commissioner Lorraine Merrill said intentions of the sponsors were good — to help local farmers — but she fears such a measure could end up weakening the state’s food products.

Also concerned is the “New Hampshire Made” organization, which has been working to build its brand for 15 years. That brand is for authentic local products that are of high quality.

Trish Ballantyne, who speaks for that brand, predicts passage of the bill would lead to widespread confusion. She said she understood people do not want food and consumables “regulated to death.”

Unlike Utah, New Hampshire did not subject SB 1650 to independent legal review.  Utah’s legislative council predicted that if adopted, the bill to jail state employees who help the federal government with food safety would be in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The New Hampshire bill sponsors do cite the 9th and 10th amendments to the U.S. Constitution to justify their actions. They also cite the “natural rights” section of the New Hampshire Constitution, which pre-dates the U.S. Constitution.

 “The interpretation of food and trade as natural rights is consistent with the contemporaneous definition,” the bill says.

According to the text of the bill, the purpose of the New Hampshire Food Freedom Act “is to allow for locally produced food products to be sold and consumed within New Hampshire and to encourage the expansion and accessibility of farmers’ markets, roadside stands, farm and home based sales, and producer to end-consumer agricultural sales…”

If passed, the New Hampshire bill would become law on Jan. 1, 2013.

  • As I have never read the NH Food Freedom Act, I do not know if and how it regulates the NH food industry. My concern would be that if it does not then people in NH could be at risk. Can anyone provide me some feedback?

  • Ben Mark

    These bills are another glorious way to shut you in the foot. Some people don’t understand FSMA is not only produce; it’s all food, feed, ingredients and beverages. All these commodities have to be consumed within the state of NH or UT. No fish or shellfish can leave the state of NH. No hay from UT can be shipped to another state.
    Food Freedom Act is another word I like, because it sounds so good. As we see on daily food recalls, the consumer has the freedom to eat or die.
    What is so bad to follow rules in agriculture production and prove it, like in every other business too? What’s to hide? Or is it just a PR Gag from politicians to get noticed for the next election?

  • Sue McLeod

    I’d be happier if the NH legislature would bring in some laws protecting New Hampshire from GMO produce and livestock fed on chicken manure.

  • Steve

    Our Editor says: “Seldom is it mentioned that the Tester Amendment already carved out a large exemption from the FSMA for small producers. It not only exempts farms with less than $500,000 in annual revenues, but also the sales of farm-harvested or produced food in the same state or even across state lines, so long as it is 275 miles or less.”
    However, an actual reading of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) would reveal that the reason it is “seldom mentioned” that the Tester/Hagan Amendment is a “large exemption” is that it is NOT an exemption at all — but an alternative, scale-and-risk-appropriate set of standards and training for the nation’s small farmers — that work in conjunction with the other small farmer amendments and provisions in FSMA…
    Despite attempts by Industrial Producers to ensnare small scale farmers in ruinous regulations FSMA recognized that one-size-regs-DON’T-fit-all and that loading up small producers with inappropriate definitions, compliances and paperwork could easily put numerous family farms out of business.

  • New Hampshire decree of Live Free or Die would not be served if these good citizens didn’t fight this. I call for all federal workers in violation of our Constitution be jailed!!! I admire both NH and Utah tenacity……never, never, never, give up. Our lives depend on it.

  • Hortense

    New Hampshire’s new state motto – ‘Live Free and Die of Food Poisoning’
    How long before they declare the ‘foodie wingnut’ their new state mascot?

  • PB

    I’ve got an idea. Let’s disband the federal government and make it the Fifty States of America. Better yet how about the 1623 Counties of America. Forget that we, all are intellegent folks with common sense, just make up your own rules. There, that way no one gets hurt. simple

  • I vote for the 1623 Counties of America, but let’s be more descriptive: the 1623 Fiefdoms of the Americas.
    Joking aside, would not survive two minutes in court. All this is, is yet another state legislature time waster.
    What’s the matter, New Hampshire and Utah: you don’t have pressing problems in your states you need to focus on?
    And what’s the matter, farmers? You don’t know how to deliver safe food anymore?

  • Laura

    Anyone who doesn’t see the need for the food freedome legislation just doesn’t know what is going on. Would you all want to depend upon Walmart to supply you with all your food, toxins and GMOs included (with no label to tell you that)? Wake up! Food poisoning and disease comes from industrial, untraceable, CAFO and sewage treated monocrop “foods.”