Niagara Gazette

Bob Confer

December 11, 2012

CONFER: Obama is a threat to farms

Niagara Gazette — In 2010 and 2011, the Food and Drug Administration focused on the suppression of unpasteurized milk distribution across state lines. Among the targets of their stings were food clubs and the Amish. The arcane rules against raw milk were enforced — at gunpoint no less — despite the health benefits of the beverage and the freedom that people should have to willingly ingest the foods they want in the manner they’d like.

In 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had a plan to override states’ rights and reclassify farming vehicles and implements as commercial vehicles, requiring hundreds of thousands of farm workers to get commercial drivers licenses (CDLs). Also, the language within those regulations would have reclassified farming as interstate commerce, which would have allowed federal control of all farming activities. Fortunately, a last minute flurry during the public comment period prevented these regulations from becoming the law of the land.

Later that year, the Department of Labor came out with a draft of new labor laws that would have forever harmed agriculture by preventing 14- to 17-year-olds from doing a wide variety of farming tasks, which included working with and around tractors and powered equipment and all acts of animal husbandry. This would have kept thousands of teens unemployed and prevented their exposure to the lifestyle of farming in their formative years. This was stopped by intense public feedback which had been led by this newspaper and columnist.

Those issues represent some of the more significant assaults Washington levied against farming in President Obama’s first term. Many more policies were broached, many more initiated. If what the Obama Administration did or wanted to do to agriculture over the first four years is any indication of what the next four will bring, farmers should take notice. Since the President doesn’t have to worry about reelection and the heads of the various offices know that they likely have just four years of job security left (and want to leave a legacy), farmers may be subject to some significant abuses by the administration.

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Bob Confer
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