Several states have introduced “Food Freedom” bills. These laws would eliminate regulations on some of the very smallest food sources out there, from bake sales to community potlucks to your own garden. And yes, Georgia is one of them.
Introduced by Cobb County Rep. Bobby Franklin. H.B. 12, the Georgia Food Freedom Act, exempts from regulation direct farm to consumer products as long as they are “unprocessed” which is defined as those “that have not been shelled, canned, cooked, fermented, distilled, preserved, ground, crushed, or slaughtered.”
Franklin also introduced H.B. 2, Georgia Right to Grow Act, which bans localities from prohibiting or requiring a permit “for the growing or raising of food crops or chickens, rabbits, or milk goats in home gardens, coops, or pens on private residential property so long as such food crops or animals or the products thereof are used for human consumption by the occupant of such property and members of his or her household and not for commercial purposes.”
This is the most basic kind of common sense protection that all of us need: The right to grow one’s own food. It’s baffling to me that some of our citizens do not currently have this freedom, even when it’s for no commercial purpose and of no nuisance to their neighbors.
This sort of legislation will stem local abuse against small growers like Steve Miller who was fined $5,200 for growing too many vegetables in his two acre garden in Clarkston, last year. Billing itself as the “greenest county in America,” DeKalb County has set a 2011 court date for Miller’s organic garden, according to a recent update by Georgia Insight. Organic gardening has been Miller’s hobby for 15 years. Though he sells some produce at local farmers markets, he gives most of the food to neighbors.
It remains to be seen how this latter bill will fare when pitted against federal food safety regulations, including the recently passed Food Safety Modernization Act. In the (albeit rather unlikely) event that a farm selling directly to consumers grosses more than $500,000 in a year, which law will take precedence? Just as most people agree that small farmers selling direct don’t need much regulation, most would probably agree that a farm that big should perhaps be looked at every now and then by regulators. As the size of the farm grows, so too does it’s potential to cause a significant outbreak if something does go wrong. But again, the chances of this becoming an issue aren’t too great.