For the first, and hopefully the last, time ever, a story from Modern Farmer graces SJ. It’s not that farmers, at least family farmers, don’t live a hard and critically important life. They are tough people, waking early, working hard, so that we can eat. While I may not speak for everyone, I like to eat. Every day. But I digress.
Apparently, the USDA feels that farmers are tough people too, but for a very different reason. And that, combined with the First Rule of Farm Policing, gave rise to a request.
“Submachine guns, .40 Cal. S&W, ambidextrous safety, semi-automatic or 2 shot bur[s]t trigger group, Tritium night sights for front and rear, rails for attachment of flashlight (front under fore grip) and scope (top rear), stock-collapsib[l]e or folding, magazine – 30 rd. capacity.”
In May, the USDA’s Office of Inspector General filed a request for these weapons. But why exactly do they need them?
Why do dogs lick their balls?
According to a USDA press rep, the guns are necessary for self-protection.
This can be read two distinct ways. The first is that the USDA needs guns, without regard to what type of guns are required, because it, like every federal agency, has regulations that are enforced by criminal sanctions. Crimes. It’s how the government makes us behave.
But the second is that the USDA doesn’t just need guns, but submachine guns. It needs to be able to outgun the bad guys, because anything less might violate the First Rule.
The OIG’s Investigation Development bulletins show there have been three incidents in the last year that involved firearms and two in which USDA agents were verbally threatened. Still, most of their enforcement operations surround white-collar fraud of government programs, often involving SNAP programs.
By virtue of feeling compelled to mention two incidents in which agents were “verbally threatened” in justification of the need for submachine guns, it shows that the three incidents that involved firearms don’t really carry much weight.
But then, don’t underestimate those white-collar fraudsters. They can be very smart, and in a battle of wits, the USDA doesn’t want to be unarmed. So submachine guns.
“What we have seen happen, with the FDA especially, is they have come onto small farms, raw milk producers, and raided the heck out of them with armed agents present,” says Liz Reitzig, co-founder of the Farm Food Freedom Coalition. “Do we really want to have our federal regulatory agencies bring submachine guns onto these family farms with children?”
Can you imagine what would happen to society if raw milk was infiltrated willy-nilly into our children’s milk-drinking regimen? We cannot stand by and allow this to happen. We must stop it. For the children. With submachine guns. On a farm with children.
What this appears to reflect is the desire of every federal agency for its own independent police force, fully armed and capable of dealing with any contingency, no matter how incredibly unlikely. The USDA has enforcement powers. What it wants is the ability to use them without having to ask the local sheriff nicely to help out. That would be humiliating.
Having their own army with submachine guns, on the other hand, would be way cool and powerful. Every bureaucrat wants to have his own army. Every bureaucrat wants the ability to launch an attack on command. It proves his worth.
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund are not the only ones interested in taking guns out of the hands of USDA agents. Utah Congressman Chris Stewart is the sponsor of the bill on the FTCLDF petition. “At its heart it comes down to this: To myself, and for a lot of Americans, there is great concern over regulator agencies with heavy handed capabilities,” Rep. Stewart told Modern Farmer.
His bill, H.R. 4934, hopes “to prohibit certain federal agencies from using or purchasing certain firearms, and for other purposes.” When asked about the USDA’s plan for submachine guns, he said, “I can’t envision a scenario where what they are doing would require that.”
There is, or at least should be, a deep concern over the fact that every federal agency enforces its regulatory control by the imposition of criminal penalties. That Congressman Stewart can’t envision USDA enforcement at the end of a submachine gun really isn’t the point. Any enforcement of criminal laws can produce violent outcomes, and frankly, it’s hardly a stretch to imagine that farmers or ranchers, likely folks who keep guns around the homestead, won’t take kindly to the USDA SWAT team breaking through their door at night.
The more foundational question is why the USDA’s regulations need to be crimes at all. Why must every act that fails to suit a regulator’s transient whim be turned into an invitation to Club Fed? If raw milk kingpins weren’t equated with drug kingpins, there would be no question that the USDA doesn’t need its own army.
But what, you ask, would they do when those mean farmers just refuse to do as the USDA demands?
However, he also cautioned: “We have never argued that federal regulators don’t need to protect themselves.” But if USDA investigations were perceived to be potentially violent he suggested, “They should do what the rest of us do, call the local sheriff.”
There is already a huge number of people, very well armed, dressed in black with body armor, ready, willing and able (if not chomping at the bit) to roll their MRAP up to the farmstand and defend the honor of America from raw milk. Even so, it’s highly unlikely that even the sheriff will need submachine guns to subdue Ma and Pa Kettle.
Update: Breaking from Politico, via Turley, the United States, in order to sell beef in China, has agreed to allow the Chinese to sell cooked chicken here without a label of origin so you know where those wings came from.
Many consumers avoid China foods, including pet foods, due to a long series of contaminated and poisoned products coming from that country. Now the U.S. will allow four Chinese poultry plants to send processed chicken to American markets while hiding their origin. The problem is that by cooking the chicken, China can avoid new country-of-origins labels (COOL) at delis and other stores — resulting in consumers eating Chinese food products without knowing it.
But no doubt there will never again be a chance of contaminated Chinese food hitting American shores, because they care deeply about health and sanitary conditions. Pass the chicken nuggets, kids.