Your Support Makes the Difference
Our vision is to support, protect and help establish local food systems around the U.S. that champion freedom of food choice, unregulated farm-to-consumer direct commerce, small-farm prosperity, and more self-sufficient local food economies. Short-term work involves supporting efforts to create as favorable a regulatory climate as possible for small farmers, local artisans, and their patrons with the ultimate aim being unregulated, local food producer-to-consumer direct commerce throughout the country; the experience in the states that have adopted this food system shows that it is superior to the conventional food system in terms of freedom of choice, keeping more of the food dollar in the local economy, food safety (better traceability and few foodborne illness outbreaks), food security, improved health, and providing the local producer an opportunity to make a better living.
FFF works towards these ends through several means. First, we support the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) and other like-minded organizations involved in public interest litigation impacting local food.
Public Interest Litigation
In 2023 FFF made a major financial commitment to support a lawsuit filed by FTCLDF in Maine that could set a favorable precedent for both that state’s Food Sovereignty Act and the Right to Food Amendment in the Maine Constitution. The Food Sovereignty Act legalizes the unregulated sale from food producer direct to consumer in towns that have passed local food sovereignty ordinances. The state’s constitution has enshrined the right to grow, produce, consume, and acquire the foods of choice.
In the Maine case, a producer of prepared meals in a town that has passed a food sovereignty ordinance and one of the producer’s customers are seeking a court order enjoining the Maine Department of Health (MDH) from interfering with the producer’s business. MDH is claiming that the producer needs a commercial kitchen permit to sell from its home kitchen because, among other reasons, the producer did not make all the ingredients that are in the prepared meals—a contention that would severely restrict the scope of the food sovereignty ordinance if upheld by the court. The producer is contending that the food sovereignty ordinance exempts the business from an y regulation; the customer is claiming MDH has violated his constitutional right to acquire the foods of his choice. A favorable court ruling for the customer would clarify that unregulated producer-to-consumer direct commerce are protected under the amendment. The case is moving slowly and is still in its initial stages.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is a threat to further consolidate food production in the U.S. by overregulating small and midsize producers to the point where they can’t afford the cost of compliance with FSMA‘s requirements. In 2023 FFF provided funding for litigation to uphold exemptions FSMA carved out for small produce growers. Produce growers with no more than $25,000 in annual sales of produce and produce growers with no more than $500,000 in total farm sales each year are given complete exemptions and “qualified exemptions”, respectively, from the onerous FSMA produce safety regulations—meaning that growers in either category aren’t subject to on-farm inspections under FSMA, only inspections of their records to verify annual sales.
The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA), through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is charged with enforcing the FSMA produce safety regulations. TDA exceeded its authority and has issued regulations that have gone beyond the FSMA mandates and call for routine on-farm inspections of farms under both the absolute and the qualified exemptions FSMA provides, with penalties for those farms who refuse to submit to what amounts to illegal warrantless searches. The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA). a Texas-based nonprofit advocating for small-scale farmers and ranchers, has filed a lawsuit against TDA seeking a court order striking down the regulations as unconstitutional and beyond the authority of the department. The trial court ruled in favor of TDA and the case is now on appeal. At a time when there should be decentralization and deregulation of food production and distribution, the case is important in stopping a government action moving in the opposite direction.
In addition to funding public interest litigation, FFF provides compassionate relief in the form of financial aid to small farmers and local food producers suffering hardship caused by government enforcement actions. The worthy recipient of compassionate relief from FFF in 2023 is Minnesota farmer Alvin Schlangen, the founder and operator of Freedom Farms Co-op, a food buyers club providing raw milk and other nutrient-dense foods to its members. Alvin endured two criminal trials and an administrative action during a time when the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) had stepped up enforcement action against raw milk distribution and threatened to cut off access for much of the state. His acquittal of all charges in one of the cases is one of the greatest victories of the raw milk movement in this country. Alvin and the late Mike Hartmann kept the raw milk flowing despite the many efforts of MDA to stop them. This relief grant will go towards the payment of dental treatment for Alvin, which will hopefully resolve problems that have affected his overall health.
FFF also provides education and information on matters impacting the viability of local food systems and small farms as well as providing grants to other organizations doing the same.
In 2023 FFF presented at the Home-Based Food Entrepreneur Virtual National Conference in April providing advice on risk management, liability and best sanitary practices for cottage food operations; FFF was a sponsor of the conference. FFF also presented at the Rogue Food Conference in Vancouver, Washington, with the subject being “The Road to a Constitutional Right to Food" to offer strategies to enshrine a right to food into a state's constitution. The Rogue Food Conferences around the country the past few years have gotten considerable traction in educating attendees on successfully navigating burdensome regulations affecting small-farm profitability.
As for providing education grants, FFF issued a grant to Maine farmer Heather Retburg and the nonprofit National Right to Food Community of Practice (righttofoodus.org) to help cover costs for the drafting and publication of The People’s Implementation Manual for the Rights of Food in Maine, a guidance document interpreting the Right to Food Amendment in the state constitution.
FFF also participated in the Food, Housing and Racial Justice Symposium in Miami which, among other topics, covered ways to expand adoption the Right to Food (RtF) constitutional amendment to other states. FFF additionally provided a grant to the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) for development of guidance materials on new Texas meat processing regulations and on the state cottage food law to enable producers to better take advantage of opportunities the law gives for meat processing and cottage food production.
While IRS regulations limit the amount of lobbying a 501(c)(3) nonprofit like FFF can do, we can still educate the public on the substance and the importance of legislation before state Houses and Congress. In 2023 FFF posted on its website a piece on why it’s critical to pass the PRIME Act, legislation that would legalize the intrastate sale of meat slaughtered and processed at a custom facility. The article reached a broad audience on the internet; support for the PRIME Act has increased substantially in the past year and the bill, or a version of it, stands a good chance to be included in the Farm Bill. FFF is also monitoring the 2024 Agricultural Appropriations bill; a provision in the latest version of the bill prohibits federal spending on research in edible vaccines and another provision prohibits any attempt by USDA to change the laws on custom processing to decrease the allowed number of owners for a custom animal (a development that would impact the ability of farmers and ranchers with poor access to state- and federally-inspected slaughterhouses to make a living).
The local food movement continues to grow. This year Iowa became the 46th state to legalize raw milk sales and/or distribution; out of the remaining four states, it appears at least two of them will have raw milk bills before their legislatures in 2024.
Watch out for a number of developments that threaten local production of quality food: USDA implementation of its rule mandating electronic ID for cattle and bison; use of mRNA vaccines for livestock; growth of solar and wind farms increasingly taking productive agricultural land out of commission; overreach by local government making it more difficult to produce and sell local food; the investment of billions of dollars in lab-grown meat even though there is little or no demand for the product.
It remains the aim of FFF to have sufficient funding available to support FTCLDF and other organizations taking on these and other potential problems for local food systems through public interest litigation, education grants, and other means. The future now is for further building out the local food infrastructure to better provide a viable alternative to the failing industrial food system.
Please support our efforts by making a tax-deductible donation. You make payment online at foodfreedomfoundation.org via Paypal or debit/credit card. If you have any questions, please call 1-828-222-0613 or send email to email@example.com.
We appreciate your generosity and ask that you protect the rights of small farmers, local artisans, and their patrons by continuing to fund this work.