Let Free Market – Not Government Regs – Rule

Larry Sailer on his corn and soybean farm, just north of Iowa Falls, Iowa. – Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Ahl with NPR

“Musings of a Pig Farmer”
by Larry Sailer

The eve of our country’s Independence Day seems like an especially fitting time to discuss the merits of free markets and free enterprise. It’s my belief that farmers should have the freedom to manage their own farms as they see fit.

The whole idea of government mandates to control how farmers and ranchers operate is a bad precedent. Instead, let the free market dictate how animals are raised. If consumers feel strongly about free-range chickens or pork, they can choose to buy from producers who operate in that manner. If buyers wants organic produce, they can buy food from organic growers.

Not everyone shares my thoughts on animal agriculture, however. Thanks (yes, I’m being sarcastic here) to groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), additional regulations for the livestock industry are being debated by Congress as part of the 2012 Farm Bill.

Allowing groups like HSUS to dictate how livestock is produced is like inviting the proverbial fox into the hen house! Why? My friend Michele Payn-Knoper does a great job of summarizing the situation on her Gate to Plate blog:

Best known for their cute kitten and fuzzy puppy propaganda, the Humane Society of the United States has “come out of the closet” with their emotional pleas to stop abuse of “factory farm animals.” It should now be clear that HSUS is more about driving animal agriculture out of our culture than they are about caring for abandoned pets.

Whatever you do, please don’t misunderstand the point I’m trying to make. Animal abuse – whether pets or livestock – is indefensible. If there is abuse, it must be addressed and the guilty party charged. The last thing most farmers want is for any animal to be abused. It’s not the way we operate. However, we don’t need more rules to define “proper care” of animals. We simply need to enforce rules that are already on the books.

There are many regulations and laws already in place to protect against animals being treated badly. New regulations and more government control won’t assure less abuse or a safer food supply. You can rest assured, however, that additional government regulations will make production costs higher for farmers and food costs more for consumers. No one wins when this happens!