Sunday, July 6, 2008

Tom Knapp and other Libertarians hold the line on farm subsidies and excessive government involvement in agriculture

The lobbying group Organic Consumers Association, in conjunction with its pressure group Grassroot Network Alliance, attempts to pin down various political candidates across the country with the following convoluted, highly Statist-big-government-intrusive question:

The Organic Consumers Fund’s 2008 Grassroots Netroots Alliance Survey asks candidates and elected officials whether they support strict organic standards, mandatory labels for genetically engineered food, the conversion of U.S. farmland to energy-efficient and carbon-sequestering organic farming, and an increase in USDA support for local food systems and organic transition. The results are starting to come in.

2008 Grassroots Netroots Alliance Survey Results:

The Organic Questions

Do you support the conversion of 20% of U.S. farmland to energy-efficient and carbon-sequestering organic farming by 2020 and 50% by 2040, with at least 5-10% of the USDA's annual $90 billion budget immediately being targeted to rebuild local food systems and help farmers make the transition to organic?

On the local and state level, do you support tax breaks for farmers making the conversion to organic, as Woodbury County, Iowa has done, "Farm to Cafeteria" legislation, like Washington state’s, and other local and state-based efforts to provide technical assistance and subsidies to farmers and ranchers making the transition to organic agriculture
?


What particularly pleases me here is that only one Libertarian candidate gave in to pandering and answered "yes" (Max Koch, Libertarian Candidate for US Congress, TX-6), no Libertarians answered "undecided," and six Libertarians returned what in many cases would best be described not as "No," but "Hell, no!"

The Libertarian "no" responses as of June 28, 2008:

Ted Brown, Libertarian Candidate for Congress, CA-26 Mr. Brown said, “It's up to farmers to decide what kind of crops they grow -- and it's up to consumers to decide what kind of food products they will buy.”

Dan Reale, Libertarian Candidate for Congress, CT-2 Mr. Reale said, “This is an open door for economic hijacking. The corporations will simply move to the third world, which won't be required to do anything under these arrangements.”

Thomas Knapp, Libertarian Candidate for US Congress, MO-2 Mr. Knapp said, “Agriculture is one of America's most heavily subsidized activities and has been for nearly a century starting with early "parity" legislation. It's time to get government off the farm and let market efficiency do the job right.”

Teddy Fleck, Libertarian Candidate for Lieutenant Governor, MO

Scott Jameson, Libertarian Candidate for US Senate, TX Mr. Jameson said, “Cut USDA annual budget to less than $1 billion.”

David Casey, Libertarian Candidate for US House, TX-24


The second question is slightly more nuanced (but equally convoluted):

Do you support strict organic standards and consumers' right to know whether their food contains ingredients that have been genetically engineered, cloned, irradiated, or produced through the use of nanotechnology, as well as mandatory labeling for the country of origin of foods?

On the local level, would you support a ban on genetically engineered crops, similar to those in place in a number of California counties?


Here the Libertarian answers were more mixed.

Scott Jameson, Libertarian Candidate for US Senate, TX and Teddy Fleck, Libertarian Candidate for Lieutenant Governor, MO answered "Yes." Most of the others attempted to make sense of the question in at least a partly non-Statist fashion:

Ted Brown, Libertarian Candidate for US House, CA-26 Mr. Brown said, “As I said above, I favor accurate labeling so that people will know what they are buying or consuming. However, I would not ban any specific product. Each consumer can decide to take a risk or not.”

Dan Reale, Libertarian Candidate for Congress, CT-2 Mr. Reale said, “I support the right of consumers to sue when these things damage food chains, crops and health. This approach used to work until we scrapped it in favor of putting the fox in charge of the henhouse, which is exactly what the FDA is. Like any other legislation, it will become just another piece of paper as its words are twisted toward any economic convenience.”

Thomas Knapp, Libertarian Candidate for US Congress, MO-2 Mr. Knapp said, “I support truth in labeling, and oppose the imposition of genetic engineering on unconsenting others (e.g. the Percy Schmeisser case, in which Monsanto's genemod canola contaminated his crops -- and then they sued HIM!).I do not support government "standards," but rather competing market standards.”


David Casey, Libertarian Candidate for US House, TX-24 simply answered, "No."

The importance of these answers is almost as important as the fact that, whatever my disagreements with the Organic Consumers Association, it apparently sent the questions to every ballot-qualified candidate it could find, and published the answers without categorizing anybody as a major or third-party candidate.

That, in itself, is progress.

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