One of Our Founding Fathers’ Greatest Oversights

|April 27, 2024
a blonde curly haired 3 year old girl in a brown sundress stands in a field of wheat with a bottle of milk and looks at her

Whenever you see a congressional vote that is 435 to 1, you can bet the one will be Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY).

A graduate of MIT, he retired at about 40 years old after developing a dozen patents.

He’s a quintessential innovator, entrepreneur and political libertarian… and truly a champion of 1776 Americanism.

He has graced most of my Rogue Food Conferences (next one is May 18) with wit and inside stories from congressional shenanigans.

He is the only elected person to embrace my idea of true food freedom.

I’ve pushed for a constitutional food freedom amendment for decades… and he has now officially entered one into the record.

Here it is…

The right of the people to grow food and to purchase food from the source of their choice shall not be infringed, and Congress shall make no law regulating the production and distribution of food products which do not move across state lines.

It’s modeled of course after the First Amendment – the right to the free exercise of religion.

This amendment, were it added to the Bill of Rights, would fundamentally change the foodscape and farmscape of America.

It would probably also change America’s escalating health crisis and need for more hospitals.

Open Access

When someone walks into Walmart – or any mega-food supermarket – they assume our food choices are nearly infinite. But they aren’t.

In order to legally sell food items, producers and processors must pass through a web of government mandates. The reason the food system is so concentrated and centralized is that regulations favor larger outfits… and prevent new, smaller players from entering the system.

Massie’s amendment proposal is brilliant in many ways.

First, it guarantees the right of people to grow their own food. Ever try having some chickens or a garden in a homeowners’ association (HOA)?

A lady called me from Texas after having to pay a fine to her HOA because she grew a couple of tomato plants in her flower garden. That violated the HOA restrictions on “farming.”

Petunias and roses are not farming… but growing a tomato to eat is farming.

And, of course, any respectable HOA member couldn’t abide living next to a farmer. That just wouldn’t do. It wouldn’t be respectable or proper. It would taint the neighborhood. Tsk. Tsk.

Cities routinely prohibit backyard chickens. Or at least make the regulations cumbersome enough to deter all but the most intrepid do-it-yourselfers.

In the first place, then, this food freedom amendment would stop this nonsense and let people grow food on their property if they wanted to. It would be as much a right as religion, assembly, or speech.

In the second place, the amendment would address the right to purchase food…

One Sided

What most people don’t realize about food regulations is that they are completely one-sided. With other hazardous substances, like drugs, the prohibitions are on both parties. Not only is it illegal to sell cocaine, for example, it’s also illegal to buy it or use it.

But with food, the alleged dangerous substance is perfectly legal to acquire, to consume, to feed to your children and neighbors.

Even a church potluck.

The only prohibition is on the seller. What that means is that if I want to buy a particular food item, like some homemade charcuterie from a neighbor’s artisanal stash, I won’t get in trouble… but he will.

This begs the question: if it’s such an unsafe substance (like cocaine), why is it fine to buy, consume, and share… and illegal to sell? Shouldn’t we be prohibiting it across the board? Of course, you can give away this unsafe food… you just can’t sell it.

What is it about trading money that suddenly makes raw milk go from benign to unsafe?

Lest anyone misunderstand, I’m not advocating blanket prohibition. In fact, I’m fine with legalizing cocaine. I also wouldn’t provide any taxpayer-funded medical or health safety net for folks who had adverse effects from using cocaine. You’re on your own, buddy.

I also wouldn’t have public schools, where most children encounter illicit drugs for the first time.

I’ll jump out of this rabbit hole now, but the argument for consistency screams for fairness. If this country is in the business of criminalizing substances deemed unsafe, then justice demands that we consistently administer the notion. Winking at one and sledge hammering the other is not the way to build integrity or trust.

If the government infringes on my right to assemble, to speak or to attend the worship services of my choice, the Bill of Rights grants me legal standing to sue for redress.

And of course people have done exactly that throughout our nation’s history. Ditto for the right to bear arms, the right to vote, the right to be “secure in our persons and property,” and all the rest of the rights bestowed on Americans, thank God.

But no such right to acquire food of my choice exists. It might be one of the greatest oversights of our founders. At that time, supermarkets didn’t exist. The thought that a neighbor couldn’t sell me a pint of milk from his cow never crossed their minds.

But that’s where we are.

With this amendment, my right to acquire overrides the government’s desire to restrict, just like the other amendments.

The day this becomes the law of the land, we will see thousands and thousands of neighborhood direct-market farmer entrepreneurs compete with the industrialized, centralized food oligarchies.

We don’t need anti-trust legislation or enforcement… all we need is freedom and it’ll take care of the cronies. The only way you can have cronyism is to protect and insulate it with regulations.

This is also known as fascism, which is what America’s food system is right now.

Its fragility came into glaring light in 2020. The solution is market access democratized through liberty.

Out of Their Hands

The last half of Massie’s amendment may seem unnecessary to the casual reader, but by denying Congress the right to interfere with intrastate food commerce, it takes the cudgel out of the federal government’s hands.

For many years, when localities or states have tried to initiate food freedom legislation, the feds deny them that right.

Maine enacted a constitutional amendment quite similar to this one a few years ago. The Food Safety and Inspection Service threatened to shut down all legal food exports out of the state.

The state backed down.

When Virginia tried something like this some 15 years ago, the state Commissioner of Agriculture took me aside (I was in Richmond testifying in favor) and berated me: “Joel, we can’t let people choose their food. We couldn’t build hospitals fast enough to handle all the people eating dirty food.”

He went on to say, “You need to realize I’m responsible for every morsel of food that enters the mouth of every citizen of our commonwealth.”

Wow… how would you like to go to bed every night with that responsibility weighing on your shoulders? I decided he’s either nuts or foolish. Maybe both.

At any rate, again the feds weighed in and shut it down. My argument that perhaps people would be healthier can’t get any traction because the federal officials won’t let a locality or state even try food freedom.

If a state wants to continue draconian food prohibitions under this amendment, that’s fine. But if a state wants to try liberty for a change, the feds can’t interfere.

That’s a game changer and shows that Massie truly understands the pressures at stake.

This amendment is now in the record. We’ll see where it goes. For sure, it will smoke out all the nanny state socialists who fear giving anyone freedom of food choice.

If food choice could get as much traction as sexual choice or marriage choice or unborn baby choice, this amendment would be top of the news tomorrow.

But Americans, unfortunately, are far more concerned about sex, fetuses and marriage than they are about the fuel for their microbiome.

Another spring 2020 would do quite a bit to move the needle toward food freedom, to get people to understand that food doesn’t just magically appear at the supermarket.

The more our food depends on a long food chain, chemical fertilizer, bank loans, and cheap energy… the more fragile it is.

Offering the alternative to the marketplace will build resilience, stewardship, health, and nutrition like we’ve never seen.

Freedom is always a better solution than fascism.

Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin calls himself a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer. Others who like him call him the most famous farmer in the world, the high priest of the pasture, and the most eclectic thinker from Virginia since Thomas Jefferson. Those who don’t like him call him a bioterrorist, Typhoid Mary, a charlatan, and a starvation advocate. With a room full of debate trophies from high school and college days, 12 published books, and a thriving multigenerational family farm, he draws on a lifetime of food, farming and fantasy to entertain and inspire audiences around the world.