As 2018 nears an end, we would like to celebrate with you the many achievements that have been made in the food freedom movement. It gives us great joy to continue to be involved in this movement and to fight for farmers, artisanal producers, homesteaders and consumers across the country. FTCLDF was founded on the simple principle that all Americans should be able to eat the food of their choice from the producers of their choice. We help members in so many ways, from releasing a member’s goat milk from an embargo, to helping a rancher-member with sound legal advice, to protecting a consumer member’s right to their herdshare, to lobbying for food rights legislation. We work tirelessly every day toward these goals.
Below are several highlights of which we are especially proud.
Our Ability to Help
So far in 2018, we responded to more than 600 member inquiries ranging from consultation to litigation.
We acted on more than 150 emergency-hotline legal calls.
We consulted on over 100 herdshare agreements for our members.
FTCLDF provided over 2,000 hours of legal services directly attending to member needs. These hours do not reflect the additional hours worked by pro bono, local legal counsel.
We are actively working to expand our network of attorneys across the country. Sometimes our attorneys on staff need to partner with an attorney in a specific state for legal work. We are working towards expanding our attorney network in each state so we will have identified local attorneys knowledgeable and ready to support the unique needs of our members. If you are an interested attorney, click HERE.
Expanding Interactive Maps
We expanded our interactive map offerings on our website. In May, we released an interactive and informative map, the Cottage Food Map and Chart, that details a state-by-state review of cottage food laws across the country. We also updated the Raw Milk Map to reflect the current state of raw milk legality across the country.
We have had the opportunity to help members at the federal, state, and local levels on legislation and other initiatives to promote food freedom of choice. Here are a few of those:
The FDA’s Ban on Raw Butter
We launched the Toast Goodbye to the Butter Ban Campaign—an active campaign to end the FDA’s ban on raw butter. The FTCLDF has filed a petition and intends to hire attorneys to fight for a repeal of the ban. We are seeking help from our food freedom community to help raise funds. Learn more about the Butter Ban HERE.
Herdshares in Virginia
FTCLDF attorneys confirmed with the Department of Virginia that despite the case law on the books holding herd shares illegal, they are not prosecuting herd shares as long as there is a valid agreement in place.
We are continuing to work on the PRIME (Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption) Act, which would empower states to set their own standards for the sale of custom-processed meat within the state. Read more HERE about this important bipartisan federal legislative measure.
We sent over 20 action alerts to our readers, members and nonmembers alerting them to timely, legislative matters with important steps for taking action. Included in the action alerts were multiple emails about the PRIME ACT, Farm Bill, and Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) deadlines.
We love when we can gather with our food freedom community. This year we were able to attend several workshops and exhibit at conferences across the country, sharing the important work we do.
We also hosted TWO Profitable Farm Workshops this year in Oregon and Kentucky. The workshops featured America’s favorite farmer Joel Salatin, Charlotte Smith of 3 Cow Marketing, and attorney Elizabeth Rich. The Workshops aimed to help small farmers remain in business.
Sign Up HERE to be the first to know when we release dates and locations for the 2019 Profitable Farm Workshops!
Helping members is at the core of our mission. Below are several stories that underscore this point.
- Lisa makes small batch, artisan goat milk gelato. During an inspection with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, the inspector insisted the gelato had to be pasteurized twice using expensive machinery. Lisa referenced the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state regulations to show the inspector that she complied with all of the rules. He was unpersuaded. Lisa took her matter to the inspector’s supervisor to no avail. They referenced another FDA regulation that was irrelevant to her situation, sent agents to the grocery stores carrying her product, and embargoed her gelato. Lisa called FTCLDF requesting an attorney accompany her to a meeting with the Agriculture Department. FTCLDF attorney Suzy Israel contacted the department officials, indicating that she would be in attendance with Lisa. Immediately the officials’ tenor changed. At the meeting, officials reinstated Lisa’s production license, released the embargo, and offered to send Lisa’s license via FedEx. Lisa was back in business. Sometimes, all it takes is the presence of an attorney to make government officials understand that our members will not be bullied.
- Steve and Wendy sell hard-to-find vegetables to high-end restaurants. A few years ago, they bought a five-acre parcel in southern Michigan. Unfortunately, their idyllic parcel was run by a mean-spirited zoning inspector. After years of harassment, misdemeanor charges were filed against Steve and Wendy for their fence and high tunnel. Steve and Wendy were facing jail time for bringing coveted, local food to market. FTCLDF attorney Suzy Israel flew out to attend the pretrial. The offer? Pay the $25 fee to obtain the permit, and the case would be dismissed. The problem? Steve and Wendy did not need a permit, because they are farmers and their fence and high tunnel were exempt. The Township attorney pointed out that it’s “just cheaper to pay the fee.” Suzy fully intended to litigate the matter; motion and trial dates were set. After Suzy filed a forty-seven-page Motion to Dismiss, the Township attorney dismissed the case. It did not make economic sense for the Township to pay her legal fees to litigate a $25 dispute.
- Jacob is a small farmer in Kansas. Jacob and his wife bought a twenty-acre parcel that had been previously vacant. The property came with a beautiful house and a pleasing view, but the land was not productive. Jacob and his wife immediately set to work to restore the land. They raised pigs, chickens, and goats. This was backbreaking labor, but it was worth it. They had a farm. A real farm. Unfortunately, the county assessor disagreed. One of the few benefits that the government confers on farmers is the “agricultural exemption,” or “ag assessment.” In most states, county assessors designate farmland to be taxed at a lower rate. When the assessor visited Jacob’s farm, he said it “didn’t look like a farm.” Jacob contacted FTCLDF. Once the county realized that a lawyer was involved, they immediately agreed to give Jacob his ag exemption for 2018. That wasn’t good enough for us. Jacob was entitled to have his ag exemption date reinstated to 2017, and to get a refund for his overpayment. We got to work, ghost-writing an appeal to the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals and reaching out to the Board to ensure that the proper procedures were followed. A hearing was set, and we prepped Jacob for the hearing. An FTCLDF attorney spoke to the county assessor before the hearing. The assessor tried to dissuade us from pursuing the matter and implied that the 2018 exemption might be stripped if Jacob lost the hearing. Jacob and FTCLDF would not be bullied. Jacob showed up at the hearing with his supporting documentation, a comprehensive presentation, and a tape recorder. He was respectful, polite, and persuasive. Jacob won.
FTCLDF is a true grassroots organization with the majority of funding coming from membership fees and individual donations. Any corporate funding comes from small, like-minded businesses.
Throughout our first decade, we have defended the rights and freedoms of farmers, homesteaders, artisans, and consumers to grow, obtain, share, exchange, and sell nutrient-dense, local, sustainable, and artisanal food.
We would not have made it this far if it weren’t for those of you who: read and share our posts; like us on Facebook; follow us on Instagram and Twitter; donate funds, food, or time; host events for us; and join and renew your memberships. We thank you for supporting our work and hope you will continue to do so in 2018 and throughout our second decade of protecting food choice.
YOUR FUND AT WORK
Services provided by FTCLDF go beyond legal representation for members in court cases.
Educational and policy work also provide an avenue for FTCLDF to build grassroots activism to create the most favorable regulatory climate possible. In addition to advising on bill language, FTCLDF supports favorable legislation via action alerts and social media outreach.
You can help FTCLDF by becoming a member or donating today.