Individual Rights in Agriculture
First, consider Ayn Rand's seminal essay, Man's Rights:
The Declaration of Independence stated that men "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." Whether one believes that man is the product of a Creator or of nature, the issue of man's origin does not alter the fact that he is an entity of a specific kind -- a rational being -- that he cannot function successfully under coercion, and that rights are a necessary condition of his particular mode of survival.
Second, consider the U.S. Constitution.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
State and federal agencies are violating individual rights. Consider the following two tales of government confiscation or destruction of private property and unreasonable searches in the name of "protecting consumers"
In two separate raids, one in August 2007 and one in April 2008, Mark Nolt's farm in Pennsylvania was raided for his refusal to apply for a state permit to sell raw milk. The first raid seized over $25,000 worth of cheese, despite no complaint of food borne illness and no proof of any danger posed by the cheese. In the second raid, six police cars and five unmarked cars descended onto his property, preventing neighbors or family from coming onto the property by threatening their arrest, seizing $30,000 worth of cheese, leading Nolt away in handcuffs, and seizing irreplaceable parts to his dairy equipment so that he could no longer make cheese even for his family, let alone consumers. The director of food safety also stole a book off his shelf, which was entitled Everything I Ever Wanted to Do is Illegal, by Joel Salatin.
These are just two of many examples where governments used unjust force against American citizens who had not harmed or threatened a single person.
In the current regulatory environment, small-scale food production and distribution from any home kitchen is almost always illegal. Livestock must be federally-inspected when slaughtered unless the animals are being consumed by the owner of the animal. In about half of all states, selling unpasteurized milk is illegal. Cider is also now nearly always required to be pasteurized or irradiated.
In other words, the government is increasingly making eating the food of one's choice an illegal act.
First, we must question the premise that the government even guarantees a safe food supply. It does not. Many outbreaks of food-borne illness have occurred under the watch of the FDA in pasteurized milk, tomatoes, spinach, beef, alfalfa sprouts, and more. The USDA has even gone so far as to squelch independent testing for mad cow disease under special interest pressure. The USDA also supports the fraudulent labeling of pasteurized almonds as "raw" almonds. More recently, a lawsuit was brought against Tyson Chicken for its use of antibiotics in the pre-hatched eggs of chicken eventually sold as "raised without antibiotics." Since previous USDA regulations stated that antibiotic treatments before hatching (and up to two days post-hatching) were inconsequential to the antibiotic-free label, Tyson Chicken was allowed by the USDA to falsely label its chicken as antibiotic-free. Tyson lost the lawsuit and was ordered to stop using the antibiotic-free label, but it is now appealing to the USDA to keep using it because of the previous lax USDA standards!
Further, "USDA Certified Free Range" and "USDA Certified Organic" are meaningless and very deceptive terms. An animal can be certified "Free Range" by the USDA even if never sets its feet on pasture and milk can be labeled "Organic" though from cows raised in a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO). Independent organic standards (such as those of NOFA) are far more stringent than USDA Organic standards. Yet use of the word "organic" has become a practice that is dangerous to use without costly government certification, as the examples of Bean and Rinaldi show. This is unacceptable in a free society.
The only real solution is a truly free market in food. That means abolishing the USDA and FDA's authority to inspect food. For the USDA to be able to do so -- and to even go so far as to prevent testing of mad cow disease and to allow fraudulent labeling of other products -- is a violation of an individual's right to trade freely to mutual benefit. It also makes our food system demonstrably less safe. As with any industry, mistakes, negligence, and fraud is possible in food production. However, the best possible quality is assured by diversity and innovation in the marketplace, in conjunction with objective laws against fraud and torts -- not government bureaucrats armed with reams of inane regulations.
The proper solution to the risk of food-borne illness is a free market in food. A free market would usher in a new era of personal responsibility for both consumers and producers. It will promote already-existing methods of independent certification and licensing by companies and organizations with far more objective standards than used by the government. All Americans should be more informed about their food choices -- not lulled into a false sense of complacency about a particular product simply because it is deemed "safe" by a state or federal health agency.
In short, the government should protect and uphold the right of each person to produce, trade, consume whatever food he sees fit, according to his own best judgment.