From the Arkansas Statehouse...

The death of Freedom to Farm.

In Agriculture, Personal Freedom on 2 April 2009 at 2:31 pm

Bill titles come in many forms. Some tell you exactly what the bill is going to do. (Example: “To require publications produced or distributed by state government to be provided in all languages, including Braille and Sign Language, if the publication is provided in Spanish.” Yes, this is a real bill.) Some touch on what the bill will do but make you read the whole thing if you want the full story. (Example: “Concerning entries into the judgment book.”) And some are so suggestive, so provocative, yet so incredibly vague that you can’t wait to hear about the entire thing. Such is the case with Rep. Roy Ragland’s “Freedom to Farm Act.”

Is some nefarious force on the verge of destroying the tools and tractors of Arkansas farmers? Has someone suggested that the countryside be totally evacuated?

Alas, nothing so exciting inspired Rep. Ragland’s bill. The bill is instead a reaction to a brewing squabble between small farmers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Seems the federal government has been discussing plans that would make it mandatory for all farmers to tag their animals. Seems also that small farmers don’t want to be forced to do this, be it because of cost or limitation on their personal freedom. Rep. Ragland’s bill would allay their concerns by forbidding state agencies from making farmers register their animals in the federal system.

Opponents raised constitutional issues — if the federal government made tagging mandatory, farmers would have to comply regardless of state law — as well as the concern that the bill would hurt the marketability of Arkansas cattle. Thus died the Freedom to Farm for lack of a second.

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