Signs for S 510

In an eerie and bizarre twist of fate, this morning while preparing to write yet another article regarding updates to The Modern Food Safety Act (aka S510) a little pop-up window message on my computer screen advises:

Warning! S 510 Critical!

Goosebumps ran along my skin.  I didn’t get much sleep last night, so my overactive conspiracy theory mind immediately wondered if some computer hacker had wormed their way into my office – sending me messages to either back off or come join their rebellious group….

I looked out my window to see if Jack Bauer was standing on the sidewalk, casing my house….

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During a rational, logical investigation to discover whether Big Brother or Liberty Underground was responsible for this message, I discovered the batteries in my keyboard were ‘outta juice’.

My keyboard model is “S 510”

Hmm… ain’t that interesting….

I switch my focus to finding new batteries….

Who Stole My Extra Batteries?

So, unable to shut down non-government internet networks quite yet, Big Brother has resorted to stealing my back-up supply of AAA batteries….

Oh, wait…. didn’t some male personage in my house complain about remotes needing batteries a few weeks ago?   My steel trap memory saved me from once again jumping to the wrong conclusions and making a total arse out of myself…

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Years ago, my mom and I both worked and spent leisure time with a woman who would have been my mother-in-law, had first love fantasies and dreams panned out.

For future reference, she is dubbed Ms. Taurus-Lotsa-Fun.

She taught me how to scratch in her middle son’s recently restored car.

(If you ain’t ever ‘scratched’ you haven’t lived.   Scratching involves placing the rear tires of your chosen hot-rod on dirt or fine gravel area, located real close to asphalt roadway.   You press the gas pedal to the floor while standing on the brake at the same time.  Get them tires to spinnin’ real good….then release the brake and peel out across the asphalt.   Shriek and laugh a lot to add extra fun.  Drive back and whip out your tape measure to see how long of a ‘scratch’ you made….   Muscle cars are not just for boys…..)

Ms. Taurus-Lotsa-Fun introduced me to the Morman religion, Astrologer Linda Goodman and always made sure I never had any actual pasta at the bottom of my bowl of her excellent home-made spaghetti sauce.

She also let me drive everywhere we went when I had my permit.   After three sons, she was more than happy to sit in the passenger seat while I learned to drive.   She entered the ‘no-fear’ zone way ahead of my own mother.

She was also a big believer in Signs.  A philosophy I wholeheartedly embraced that by turns, exasperated and amused my mom.

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According to me, Ms. Taurus-Lotsa-Fun was very good at listening to her intuition and picking up on wisdom from her surroundings that escaped others.

According to Mom, Ms. Taurus-Lotsa-Fun always found a sign to back up what she intended to do or believed in anyways.

Mom is a preacher’s kid.   She’s very familiar with how some people can find a ‘sign’ for durn near anything they want to do and quote Scripture to back it up.   She learned early from Grandpa to be wary of those who misinterpret God’s word, usually for their own gain or benefit.

I have never lost the belief in signs.   And I’m very aware I can interpret and fill with meaning anything I choose.

I had two very good teachers.

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In the end, my sign this morning led me to sharing with you yet another opportunity to research the S 510 bill. In a more humorous fashion.

My editor/publisher friend says my greatest talent is the ability to link widely diverging topics and still  come up with a logical conclusion from the whole mess.

Of course I can.  I’ve had lots of Sign and Interpretation training….at the side of a Master.

Sunny Side Up(date)

Ventured into the newsroom this morning.   Already in a ‘mood’ so what’s a little more irritation and angst?

Read the latest regarding food poisoning allegations and egg recalls.

Seems FDA Chief Margaret Hamburg needs more ‘power’ in order to do her job properly.   She’d also like to have greater authority over imported foods.

Funny, the tainted eggs came from farms in Iowa.  When did they become defined as foreign imports?

She is, however, taking the ‘egg problem’ very seriously.  Apparently laws that allow the shutdown of lemonade stands and small dairy farms (read here, and here, and oh, lookee, here’s another….) have failed miserably when it comes to keeping big corporations on the straight and narrow.  She simply must have more authority in her fight against evil egg producers.

She calls for more enforcement and preventative power.  Oh, and would you people please quit eating eggs sunny side up too?

(I can see aides and under-paid paralegals frantically adding that decree to some sub-section in the pending Modern Food Safety Act….)

Sheesh.   Have you no intelligence whatsoever?  Must we now legislate how your breakfast  be cooked, too?

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What really caught my eye was the long list of previous violations by DeCoster companies (seems the two main farms in this tragedy are owned by or heavily linked to Wright County Egg and Quality Egg, both owned by Austin “Jack” DeCoster).

Between 1994 and 2010, seems DeCoster companies have run afoul of and had to pay large fines for multiple offenses regarding harm to the environment, employees and animals.

As my eyes re-read the timeline, I noticed heavy involvement by Labor Secretaries, EPA, Immigration authorities and animal welfare groups… the list was long and varied, but allusions to different agencies involved made my mind fill in, “OSHA”, “Fair Wage & Labor”, “State Environmental agencies”…

I didn’t see FDA or subtle reference to such at all in the long list.   Guess they were anxiously sitting in their offices, unable to join in the battle because they didn’t have proper authority and power….

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Really, what kind of product did you expect from those who don’t care if hog waste runs off into local waterways, if  employees have safe and clean working conditions, who continually hire illegal immigrants willing to work for peanuts and suffer all kinds of indignities just to stay in the country and eat?  Apparently these folks also make the typical slave quarters of the pre-war south look like mansions when compared to the living conditions of their animals.

Rather than just blindly giving Ms. FDA some more power, me thinks perhaps a little more research is required.

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Some preliminary digging into historic egg prices tells me savvy egg producers plan for space and animal workforce management to counteract the dips in productivity compliments of the molting process.

(Which in chicken speak means, renewal time.  “I’m taking time off from reproducing and growing me some new feathers to replace these old, shabby ones.”   Nature does have a cycle.   Which, historically, is rebelliously out of sync with consumer demands….)

According to one poultry specialist report attempting to educate in regards to Flock Management the average wholesale price per dozen of eggs from 1983 – 2002 was 52.3¢.

I figure this is probably a good number, since the report was ‘sponsored’ by the United Egg Producers.  They better know how much money they get per dozen, else their 10-year approach to flock management will be severely handicapped.

This author also contends that prices took a jump in 2003.  Up to an average of .58¢ per dozen.  One section puzzled me:

“Are we entering a period of time for significant changes in the prices we receive for our eggs?  If so, should we re-think our replacement policies? If prices justify the elimination of molting is the industry prepared to make a major investment in new rearing facilities?”

How are they ‘eliminating’ molting?   Have they found the secret to keeping chickens from dropping their feathers?  How do the birds feel about this?  Did Mother Nature get the memo?

Further reading indicates they eliminate molting by selling off the chickens.  And replacing them with new ones, ready to lay….

Sometimes my cynical heart leads me to jump to conclusions….

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I also question the container in which these egg farmers are doing business.   A search to find who actually sets the wholesale price for eggs informs me it’s either complicated or on a need-to-know-basis, and I do not need to know.  (or perhaps I need to polish up my searching skills….it does happen….)

I did find this quote regarding poultry and egg prices from the USDA’s Economic Research website (tsk, tsk, last updated April, 2009):

“With almost 18 percent of total poultry production being exported, the U.S. poultry industry is heavily influenced by currency fluctuations, trade negotiations, and economic growth in its major importing markets.”

Okay, that’s interesting.   Has anyone heard the rumor a global economic crisis is going on?   Maybe egg prices were reduced in order to keep folks from starving due to poverty.   Lowered prices means egg producers need to get their profits from quantity, not quality….just a speculation…

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My brain committee speaks up about a gal I worked with years ago.

I never saw this gal wear the same outfit twice during the six months I was a temp in her office.   During a visit to her home,  my hostess proudly showed me her master closet, and two other full-size closets packed from floor to rafter with clothes. They made the local Goodwill racks look sparse and neat.

She was appalled I paid an average of $8/gallon for raw milk from an organic farm. (translation: small flock, healthy animals, modest lifestyle owners who love God’s creatures, great and small.)

She routinely went clothes shopping in order to keep her wardrobe and fashion plate status renewed.   In her mind, organic dairy farmers were interfering with my right to dress well.

When a society encourages fashionable, extravagant wardrobes over basic nutrition, then we all have a problem.

(No, I don’t look in other people’s medicine cabinets…It’s just her bad luck to combine a tour of her wardrobe with criticisms of my food choices…and my ability to type…)

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The buy-local-organic community cries “corporate farming” is the root of most of our evils.

I say corporate farming grew in the fertile ground prepared by a busy, complex society who values luxuries over necessities and demands ‘instant gratification’.

“I want an Egg McMuffin, My Way and I want it now!  Hurry up, I’m late for work.”

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Philip Zimbardo defines Evil as

The Exercise of Power to Intentionally Harm, Hurt, Destroy or Commit Crimes against Humanity.

He also contends it’s not just bad apples who commit Evil.  Often, it’s good apples who have been placed in a poor situation and are required to operate under a problematic system.

The plot thickens….

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The AP article listed over 3.5 million dollars paid by DeCoster Farms in fines and settlements since 1994, though I think they just highlighted the big ones.

Are the owner and his managers Evil people who must be stopped via a more powerful FDA?

Or are they business men trying to make a living in a system that demands short-cuts and piss-poor conditions just in order to make a living off a commodity they have no direct power in setting the price of other than through pricey lobbyists and campaign donations? (those two items do not come cheap…)

Have they grown so big and received so many tax breaks, they can survive even in the face of million dollar penalties, fines and settlements?

Did they grow to immense proportions through Taking Over the World Intent, or did they do their best to meet supplier demands in a price fixing system?

Did they discover they could not fulfill supply demands, profit requirements, regulatory fees, labor laws, environmental protection acts and good animal husbandry practices all at the same time?  Did they truly set out to destroy the average American or did they slide one slippery step at a time down a muddy slope built and maintained by our government and culture?

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One last observation – It’s amazing to me how I don’t have to go any further than my Yahoo email “What’s New?” tab to connect with reports on the Salmonella outbreak that simply cries out for more FDA power and authority.

Mainstream media is just in time as Congress reconvenes on September 13th and Senate Bill S510 is on the agenda.

I have to scan Facebook, read emails from a friend and surf independent blogs or small locally owned media to find out how local, state and federal authorities are wreaking havoc in the lives of small dairy, poultry and meat operations.

Via charges of regulatory, permit and licensing violations.

Resulting in operation shut down, seizure and/or destruction of personal property and Cease and Desist orders, punishable by jail time if ignored. (Grazin’ Acres, Bechard Family Farms, Rawesome organic co-op, Palmer Family Farm, Brigitte Ruthman just to name a few…)

These small farms were targeted via sting operations or unannounced raids by local regulatory agencies.   No allegations of tainted food, food borne illness, environmental hazards, labor violations or cruelty to animals have been made by those leveling charges.

They face extinction because they dared to provide themselves, their neighbors and local community with healthy, nutritious food.

But you won’t hear about them through Yahoo News or the AP.

Cause if you did, you’d tell Ms. FDA and the authors of S510 they already have power aplenty and they’d better start focusing their enforcement efforts on the proper targets.

Tyranny grows to power in the field of Fear and Hysteria.

No Wonder…

we are in the condition we are.  We simply cannot agree about anything.  Even eggs.

After months of complaining about Yahoo headlines showing up before my email in-box, I’ve adjusted.   I now peruse the morning news.

Hey!  You can teach an old dog new tricks.

One of the headlines that caught my eye today:  228M eggs recalled following salmonella outbreak.

Yes, I skim-read the story.   But in my usual manner to get to the bottom of what’s really going on, I skipped pretty quickly to the comments section.

I figure reading the comments gives me a better idea of where my fellow citizen stands on various issues.

I’m now convinced that S510 will probably pass.   As will Codex Alimentarius.  Simply because scanning the comments revealed cries that the government is not doing it’s job, maybe now folks will see what a great thing S510 is and so on…

Meaning security is more cherished than liberty, to my mind.

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I also noted there are either a lot of Obama opponents, or there are a few who have managed to sign up and use several different screen names.   Somehow, someway, many commentators managed to link his holiness to the present “poisoning of Americans”….

I enjoy a good conspiracy theory, but c’mon now, really?

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The majority of the comments I read (I made it through the last 90 of 900+), were peppered with the logical:

“Proper cooking and cleanliness while in your kitchen protects you from this.” (20+ comments)

The budget-conscious:

“I’m sick of hearing “buy local from the farmer”.  I use 6 dozen a week!  I’m stickin’ with Costco” (4+)

The trying-to-be-self-reliant:

“I have nutritious, honorably raised produce, but stores want me to sign a contract saying I will consistently deliver X amount every week.  Impossible for a small farmer” (2+)

The vegetarian:

“See?  If you would quit eating animal products, you wouldn’t have to worry about this” (3+, although, apparently, they’ve forgotten about the recent Tomato and Lettuce recalls…)

The brave:

“Read this while slurping down my morning protein shake with 4 raw eggs in it.  Feel great!”(17+)

The fearful:

“When are our elected officials going to protect us from death?   I’m so tired of them not doing their job.”(15+)

The detail-oriented:

“Why didn’t they give us information on when the eggs hit the store shelves and what code I’m supposed to look for to tell if the eggs in my fridge are on the recall list?”(5+)

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Sigh.   Reading the comments shows me that I fall in the same group as those who have boycotted reality TV (the minority).

On the bright side, I am reminded again of how great Freedom of Speech is…

See, now I have plenty to think about this morning:

  • How do the folks who lost a loved one to food poisoning feel about this?
  • Have Obama aides alerted him that several folks with funny screen names think he’s behind the outbreak?
  • Will Ms. small farmer survive in her chosen lifestyle?
  • Will Mr. protein shake be alive tomorrow?
  • Will Ms. Clean’s kids be in therapy someday, complaining about  her choice of ‘safe, clean kitchen’ over ‘cooking with my kids’?
  • How will my life look in 5 years, if so many around me would rather have security than choice?

Have plenty of food for thought to keep me entertained…

NAIS, Codex Alimentarius, Bill S510 and Other Bedtime Stories to Guarantee Nightmares

Are food protection acts really for our safety? Can they be properly implemented? And who, by the way, will pay for these programs?

Thanks to my good friends on Facebook, I was alerted that the ugly head of the government is once again poking its’ large and obnoxious nose into places it doesn’t belong.   Yes, I realize this is a inflammatory statement, hence, my writing here, instead of posting this as a comment at the www.opencongress.org website.  (which, if you’d like, you can visit and look at the hoopla going on over various bills.)

So, let’s take a look at each of these and try to make sense of them.

NAIS – The National Animal Identification System.   In brief, this idea is supposedly born of the desire to quickly identify and destroy animals that pose a threat to both food supply and our existence. (mad cow disease, avian bird flu, anyone?)

What is not so clear is how anyone thinks any of this will really work.   Number 1, the folks that want to implement this currently employ thousands to audit tax returns and apparently have not been successful in creating a database or secure electronic means of verifying taxes or conducting a paperless census (which, by the way, we filled out, returned and apparently was ‘lost’ as a census person showed up at my house saying they didn’t get ours.   On the flip side, my mom got 2 censuses to fill out and a friend never received any….)

Now, if these folks have not centralized, streamlined and made efficient the operations they have been in charge of for decades, how in the world are we to believe they can implement this kind of system and let us know about diseased food within 20 years of our consumption of it?

Number 2 – current figures show that given the ‘requirements’ of the system, most of the costs will fall on the small farmers and ranchers – courtesy of Wikipedia is the following:

“The costs of becoming NAIS compliant for a U.S. beef producer were found to be a minimum of $2.08 a head for large producers and as much as $17.56 a head for smaller operations, with an estimated average cost to cow/calf producers of $6.26 per animal, according to research by Christopher Raphael Crosby of Kansan State University’s Department of Agricultural Economics published in 2008.”

Does anyone hear “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”?

Number 3 – Historically, outbreaks of disease occur in close population, improperly nourished animals.   Farmer John who has 15 head of cattle and 160 acres of pasture does not face the same challenges as Mr. Beef, who has crammed 5,000 cows into a feedlot the size of a Wal-mart parking lot, where calves play on hills of cow patties and drink milk produced from the ingestion of soybean and corn meal (when cows have evolved to do just fine, thank you very much, on grass.)

Plus, Farmer John really depends on his herd for his food, to feed his family and perhaps a neighbor or two and to bring in some extra cash to pay the ever-increasing cost of living expenses.  So he has a HUGE investment in making sure his herd is healthy and well-nourished.  The loss of even one cow can make or break him.

Mr. Beef can depend on tax breaks, an adjustment of market prices, government bailouts, etc, if he somehow manages to lose his herd to disease.   So who do you think takes better care of their herd?

On to the next – Codex Alimentarius – Proponents will tell you it’s an international effort to ensure the safety of food for all – as well as to keep me from accidently killing myself from taking too much Vitamin C.

Again, these efforts are brought to you by folks who can’t even balance their own budgets and settle disputes among themselves in a peaceful manner.  Do you really think they know how much Vitamin C I can handle and furthermore, if I were receiving nutritious food, would I even need a supplement?   If they are so invested in “Nutritious, Safe Food to further the health and well-being of the populace” then why did they ignore the published findings of biochemist Dr. Mary Enig in the 70’s, who warned of the dangers of trans-fats and hydrogenated fats to the human body?  Um, no, took about 40 years before they figured that one out (if they even have yet……………)

I also find it interesting that many countries within the World Effort of this measure are ARDENTLY opposed to GMO foods and have been very insistent on pushing for foods containing those types of ingredients to be Labeled.   Those who have a vested interest in controlling both seed and food supplies, by getting ‘patents’ on their genetically modified seeds and plants have kept up the pressure and keep taking a run at getting that ‘pesky little nuisance’ of required labeling for GMO foods buried under the rug.

All in all, I cannot see the reasoning for extending all this effort on the Codex other than for countries who take their food and health seriously to put up a ‘fence’ to keep those exports out from countries that do not.  (meaning, US)

So with the history of these two long-running dramas, I now come to the most recent – Senate Bill S510.

Innocuously titled, “FDA Food Safety Modernization Act”, it lists high-sounding ideals and includes some of the following:

  • food facility re-inspection (um…I worked as a waitress for 12 years, I can tell you, restaurants get inspected every year……)
  • food recalls (aren’t they already allowed to do that?)
  • a voluntary qualified importer program (have these people never heard of eating locally?)

So those violently opposed to this bill read it and see how easily seed and food control could be placed in the hands of those who have no business telling us what we can grow or eat, share with our neighbors or sell at the local farmer’s market.   And I agree with them to a point; while the bill does not specifically state any of these intents, the large generalized points of it are open to all kinds of interpretations.

History tells me the interpreters will translate it for the benefit of themselves, their agency budget and their large campaign contributors (corporations) before they will for my health and well being.

Again, if you look to history, deaths and illness related to the consumption of contaminated, diseased foods, has been linked to large corporate mono-culture farms, not the small local producers.  Why?  Well, because the small local producer not only feeds you, but their own family.  They don’t have the time or the energy (or the insanity) to grow one garden with ‘good stuff’ for their family and another with ‘questionable stuff’ to sell at the local market.

In addition, if I get ‘bad food’ at the local farmer’s market, I know exactly who to go to with my accusations.   When large farms put out questionable produce, it has also traveled through one or more broker warehouses, a packaging plant or two, the transportation gamut….on and on and its’ so easy to pass the buck on who exactly is to blame.

I’m also curious as to why Homeland Security is one of the committees listed on the bill’s information page.  What, are they afraid terrorists are going to send us toxic bananas?   Newsflash, if everyone ate organic and locally, this fear would be laughable.  And I can tell you, any terrorist shows up at our local farmers market with evil intent on his mind, I can guarantee there are enough ‘rednecks’ around here that are just waiting for an opportunity to show the world what real Homeland Security looks like.

I also wonder just where they are going to get the money to implement all this when they are already crying about ‘deficits’ and ‘budget cuts’.   To my mind, this has less to do with feeding the nation safely and more to do with feeding the oversized monster we call our government, as well as nudging out any competition to the large centralized food companies.

Implementation, testing and compliance enforcement take money – some of that money will come from those who want to ‘buy into the market’ (meaning smaller operations won’t be able to afford to be in the market) – but most of the money will come from you and me, the consumer.   What?  You don’t think so?  Just who do you think is paying for the Tobacco Company Settlements?   It isn’t the companies or the government, its’ the consumers.  But I’ll leave that debate for another time.

The legislations listed above can only make sense in a climate of fear.   They can only pass when we blindly believe the government is really trying to protect us.  When we believe that death is more heinous than liberty. (Oh where is Patrick Henry when you need him?)

Quit looking to the government to save you from harm.   Know those who grow your food.   Have a relationship.  Trust me, they are much more invested in your health and well being than the FDA is.  Because without you, they don’t have a livelihood.  The FDA and government don’t either, but they have forgotten.

Remind them.