Nelson County farmers arrested for…farming.

Last week two Nelson County farmers were arrested for using non-approved labels as price tags, and I’m spitting mad about it. Now they’ve been charged with a crime for butchering their hogs and selling the meat, something that’s actually illegal to do in the state of Virginia. Family farms are criminalized in the commonwealth.

(I strongly, strongly recommend reading Joel Salatin’s article, “Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal,” for more on this. It’s now a book, by the way.)

Double H Farm is owned and operated by Richard Bean and Jean Rinaldi, a couple in their 60s. Bean just wrapped up his term as president of the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (VICFA), a marvelous organization dedicated to legalizing family farms. VICFA can’t have a lot of friends at Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Ten VDACS agents were involved on the raid on Double H, which ended in Bean and Rinaldi being handcuffed, placed in police cruisers, and taken to jail.

Which legislator is willing to stand up and say “yes, I oppose allowing farmers to raise animals, slaughter them, butcher them, and sell the meat?” I want names. Who is it that allows the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services to behave like this? Todd Haymore, Kaine’s appointee who heads that department up? Does Governor Kaine support our system of laws that criminalizes family farms? This occurred in Del. Watkins Abbitt‘s district: does he support this arrest? These laws don’t exist in a vacuum — they came into existence by political means and they’re maintained by political means. I want to know who supports them and why.

Let’s contrast this with Topps Meat’s recall of 21,700,000 pounds of ground beef today. The meat is contaminated with E. coli. (This happens during the factory-farm slaughtering process, a result of cows’ intestines being slashed open and the contents — nascent cow shit — being sprayed all over the beef. These factories value efficiency more than anything else. That employee could admit his mistake, shut down the (dis)assembly line and clean it all up…or he could do what his superiors want him to do, which is to keep quiet, let it go, and figure nobody will likely trace back the illnesses to that factory.) Now, under the law, Topps is under no obligation to do anything about that infection. Twenty five people are sick so far, but the government has no ability at force a recall. The powerful meatpacking industry has made sure that it’s simply not possible for the feds to make them do anything. Toy with lead paint? Recall. One hundred million beef patties? Nada.

The CEO of Topps Meat has no fear of a dozen law enforcement officers come to his home, handcuff him and wife, and haul them off for fingerprinting and photographing. Every last employee of the company is safe from criminal charges, no matter how many people die.

Yet two Nelson County farmers were arrested this week for using improper price tags on their pork.

What’s wrong with this picture?

I know a lot of Republicans aren’t Republicans anymore, especially here in Virginia, so I’ve got to call up how much I miss good old-fashioned Republicans. The kind who believed in small government. Republicans have had control of the General Assembly for nearly a decade. Why is it still a crime for farmers to farm? Why do I own share of a cow in the Shenandoah Valley in order to get a half gallon of unpasturized milk each week? If Republicans don’t support farmers’ freedoms to produce food and sell it, what freedoms do they support that Democrats don’t?

I try not to blog while angry. But it’s been two days since I first wrote about this over at cvillenews.com and I’m only getting madder. Here’s hoping some enterprising reporters will dig into this story, finding out how these anti-farming laws continue to exist and who in the General Assembly will work to repeal them.

Something’s got to change.

7 thoughts on “Nelson County farmers arrested for…farming.”

  1. This reminds me of the Buckingham incident where the Virginia department of Agriculture did a similar raid ((Source). There was some differences (minor ones in my opinion) but I think it amounts to the same thing.

  2. I have felt just as sick about this since I heard. I have known these folks for years, starting when I first moved here and began buying their products at the market, through all of the years of questions I asked Richard about how to grow produce organically, to this year when I began selling my own no-spray apples and he and Jean lent me a market scale.

    Kathryn Russell of Majesty Farm, of her own volition and not because Richard and Jean requested it, has set up a paypal account to which you may contribute if you would like to help Richard and Jean with their legal expenses: http://www.majestyfarm.com/. If you read the Daily Progress today, there is a heart-warming article about how folks showed their support at the C’ville market yesterday and bought Double H farm out of just about everything they brought to sell. (I would have listed the link but the url is long and I don’t know how to make it pretty.) It is clear they have the support of the community, so maybe we could also show this by raising funds so that their efforts to provide us with healthy food are not lost to the high costs of legal representation.

    Lastly, a few clarifications… though Richard is a past president of VICFA, the current president is William Lutz. (By the way, joining VICFA is another great way to support the folks who are working hard to keep locally and sustainably grown food available to you.)

    Also, not only were they charged with improperly labeling the meat, but they also supposedly broke another law about which you may not be aware. Did you know that it is illegal in this state to transport uninspected pork, goat and sheep meat products? When Richard and Jean tried to save consumers money by processing their own pigs, they broke the law because their farm did not have an inspector there each day that they processed, as required by the law. Why is okay to transport uninspected deer, bear, squirrel and all of the other types of venison that folks consume, but not pork, goats and sheep? Does this mean that when I slaughter the lambs that I have been raising this summer, and decide to take a dish of lamb curry to a potluck, that I will be subject to arrest?

    This is a wake up call folks. This kind of harassment is plain scary, and we are rapidly approaching a time when none of us will be allowed to grow our own food, leaving us subject to the crap that big agribusiness decides makes them the most profit to produce. We need to stand up and let the government (and the big agribusiness lobby that is behind the scenes of these kinds of outrages) know that we will not tolerate it.

  3. Thanks for the correction on Richard Bean as president of VICFA. I guess my knowledge is a few months’ out of date. :) I’ve just corrected the blog entry to say that he’s no longer the president.

  4. Thanks for reporting on this, Waldo. As someone who buys regularly from small Virginia farms, I have a very strong desire to see local farms succeed.

    I know one or two folks in the GA; I’ll talk to them about this ASAP.

  5. These laws protect companies like Smithfield – they pay out lots of $$$$ to state and federal lawmakers.

  6. What, there were no drug dealers, drunk drivers, Mother stabbers or father rapers to be arrested? All the corporate theives are already in jail? Big Pharma is out of Business? Tyson, Purdue, IBP etal are out of business?

    Bill

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