Another Way to Kill Small U.S. Farmers: Seize Their Bank Accounts on Phony Charges
In its latest move against small farmers who dare to operate outside the umbrella of CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) and Monsanto-dominated crops, the U.S. government has seized $70,000 from a small dairy farmer in Maryland. The feds did this under the "Bank Secrecy Act," which requires that paperwork be filled out for any cash deposit in excess of $10,000.
The farmers, Randy Sowers and his wife Karen, made deposits totaling more than $295,000 from May 2011 to February 2012, but each transaction was less than $10,000.
Now they are being accused of "structuring," a violation of federal currency reporting requirements, as the feds are accusing them of deliberately depositing money in increments of less than $10,000 in an attempt to evade Currency Transaction Reporting requirements.
Government Seizes $70,000 On What Grounds?
The dairy farmer's "crime" stems from his weekly sales at local farmers' markets. The sales averaged about the same amount each week and, dutifully, the Sowers deposited them. They'd reportedly never even heard of the Bank Secrecy Act or "structuring," but that was of no interest to the feds—the consistency of the amount the Sowers deposited, always less than $10,000, raised red flags to the feds, who claimed that this was indicative of a crime.
The government promptly seized about $70,000 from the bank account, then issued a warrant for the seizures. As reported by Food Freedom News:i
"The Dept. of Justice has since sued to keep $63,000 of the Sowers' money, though they committed no crime other than maintaining their privacy. Without funds, they will be unable to make purchases for the spring planting. When a similar action was taken against Taylor's Produce Stand last year, the feds seized $90,000, dropped the charges, and kept $45,000 of Taylor's money.
Knowing that most farms operate on a very thin margin, such abuse of power wipes out a family's income, and for a bonus, the feds enhance the monopoly power of Monsanto, Big Dairy and their supply chain.… Former Maryland assistant U.S. attorney Steven Levin told the paper [City Paper], "The emphasis is on basically seizing money, whether it is legally or illegally earned. It can lead to financial ruin for business owners, and there's a potential for abuse here by the government.""
The raid on the Sowers was conducted by an agency created in 2009 to go after money-laundering criminals. The agency started out with a bang by seizing $1.2 billion from a real money launderer, but it appears that what it's interested in now is making criminals out of small business persons, including small farmers.
Why Are Family Farms Under Attack?
If they're not seizing bank accounts, it seems the government will find other ways to attack small farmers. A family farm in rural Michigan—and possibly others—may be shut down by a new state law that designates certain breeds of hogs as a threat to neighboring hog breeders and croplands.
Basically, the fight is over the definition of feral hogs vs. domestic hogs. The dictionary definition of "feral" refers to an animal running wild. But Michigan authorities have taken it a step further and extended the definition to include enclosed private hunting preserves and small farms that house what authorities call an "invasive species" of hogs.
There is no genetic test to determine whether the species on these farms are truly invasive, so authorities are basing their cases against these farmers solely on visual observations. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) uses this vague description to describe the prohibited hogs, and makes it clear that this does not apply to the domestic hogs raised on CAFOs:ii
"Wild boar, wild hog, wild swine, feral pig, feral hog, feral swine, Old world swine, razorback, eurasian wild boar, Russian wild boar (Sus scrofa Linnaeus). This subsection does not and is not intended to affect sus domestica involved in domestic hog production."
Other descriptions supplied by the MDNR include such a wide variety of characteristics that virtually any pig other than the familiar pink domestic breed raised on CAFOs could potentially be deemed "feral":
- Erect or folded/floppy ear structure
- Straight or curly tail
- Solid black, wild/grizzled, solid red/brown, black and white spotted, or black and red/brown spotted coat colorations
- "Other characteristics" not currently known to the MDNR
Interestingly, the Big Pork industry has been planning this anti-feral pig campaign for years, and even bragged about it in a 2010 newsletter.iii It was the same newsletter where they declared a win against the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in Ohio, where HSUS was seeking legislation to end the practice of sow gestation stalls (cages so small the sow can't turn around or move).
What this means for residents of Michigan is that soon they will be unable to purchase sustainably and humanely grown meat from the Mangalitsa "wooly" hogs raised on Baker's Green Acres farm. This particular breed is being raised by only a handful of small farms across the country; whereas more than 2 million pigs are slaughtered each week in the United States, only about 50 of them are Mangalitsas (which have been called the "it" pig by the New York Times, as several high-end restaurants and specialty markets have featured the rich, naturally raised meativ).
But, of course, this issue is about much more than pasture-raised pork from a heritage breed ... it's about your ability, your right, to purchase and consume pure, unadulterated food – a right that continues to be threated for those living in the United States.
FDA Also Threatens Your Right to Food Choice …
Another glaring example of government going out of its way to prohibit your access to pure, unprocessed food is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) war against raw milk. When the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) filed a lawsuit against the FDA over their raw milk ban, stating that banning raw milk in interstate commerce is unconstitutional, the FDA rebutted with the following extremely concerning and outrageous statements:
- "There is no absolute right to consume or feed children any particular food."
- "There is no 'deeply rooted' historical tradition of unfettered access to foods of all kinds."
- "Plaintiffs' assertion of a 'fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health, which includes what foods they do and do not choose to consume for themselves and their families' is similarly unavailing because plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish."
- FDA's brief goes on to state that "even if such a right did exist, it would not render FDA's regulations unconstitutional because prohibiting the interstate sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk promotes bodily and physical health."
- "There is no fundamental right to freedom of contract."
Since when did the FDA have authority to tell you what you can and cannot eat and feed your children? Apparently they believe they've had it all along. If you go by these assertions, it means the FDA has the authority to prohibit any food of their choosing and make it a crime for you to seek it out. If, one day, the FDA deems tomatoes, broccoli or cashews capable of causing you harm (which is just as ludicrous as their assertions that raw milk is harmful), they could therefore enact such a ban and legally enforce it.
What this means is that freedom of food choice is a myth if you live in the United States, and this simply is not acceptable. No one, and certainly not any government agency, should be able to restrict your access to pure, unadulterated food, but the dairy industry and other industrial farmers that depend on CAFOs employ powerful lobbyists will stop at nothing to persuade government to remove the small farmers from the market entirely. The truth is, if enough people start demanding naturally, sustainably and humanely raised meat, dairy and produce, the giant farming monopolies that currently dominate the market would not be able to compete.
Their businesses depend on pesticides, CAFOs, genetically modified seeds, growth hormones and the like … so when they see all-natural creameries like the one operated by Randy Sowers and his wife Karen, or natural farms like Bakers Green Acres gaining loyal and growing customer bases, they get nervous – and they get the government involved in any way they can.
Please Support Your Local Small Farms
The healthiest food choices are nearly always those that come from responsible, high-quality, sustainable sources.
This is why I encourage you to support the small family farms in your area. This includes not only visiting the farm directly, if you have one nearby, but also taking part in farmer's markets and community-supported agriculture programs. Now that summer is almost here in the United States, fresh produce and other wonderful whole foods are available in abundance. Not only is the food so much tastier and healthier when you get it from sustainable, non-CAFO sources, but there is something about shopping for fresh foods in an open-air, social environment that just feels right. An artificially lit, dreary supermarket -- home to virtually every CAFO food made -- just can't compete.
If you want to experience some of these benefits first-hand, here are some great resources to obtain wholesome food that supports not only you but also the environment:
- Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
- Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets
- Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
- Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
- Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) -- CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
- FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSA's, and markets near you.
Finally, for more information on the ongoing attacks against small family farms in the United States consider watching Farmageddon: The Unseen War on American Family Farms, a documentary by Kristin Canty. But I warn you … the injustices it contains may just make your blood boil.
- i Food Freedom News April 23, 2012
- ii Michigan Department of Natural Resources December 13, 2011
- iii Michigan Pork 2010
- iv NYTimes.com December 29, 2010
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