A few things to pass along in this truncated work week:
1. Baylen Linnekin’s latest piece on the lapsed Fat Tax in Denmark over at Reason.com is a must read. He not only relishes the demise of the tax, he also takes a well-deserved shot at the gushing Mark Bittman in the meantime:
“Well lookee here: the inevitable move toward taxing unhealthful foods to raise income and discourage damaging diets has begun,” Bittman announced last year. He also predicted a wave of similar taxes would sweep across Europe and suggested the United States “needs these taxes more than any country in the world”—predicting “a serious celebration” if and when such laws come stateside.
Bittman hasn’t written about the law since it took effect around this time last year, hasn’t discussed its repeal, and didn’t reply to my email asking for comment.
I concur with Baylen’s enthusiasm over the demise of the fat tax, and I also concur that these are a dumb idea wherever they are implemented. I’ve always thought that our food culture isn’t necessarily over regulated or under-regulated. Most of the time, it’s just misregulate. The chemical process for creating high-fructose corn syrup was discovered in the 1950’s, but did not become an economical process for producing syrup until Earl Butz and the “fence-row to fence-row” policies of crop subsidies and subsidized insurance dropped the price of corn, the raw material for the process. So get this – taxes support the surfeit of production that makes it economical to produce and then over-consume sugar. The
fad trend now is for local governments to try counterbalance that macroeconomic process through prohibitive consumption taxes. Why hit the citizen twice? Doesn’t make much sense to me, and I am glad to see such measures go down to defeat either in Denmark or in the last domestic election. Fat tax cheerleaders should recognize that governments and regulations can sometimes be the source of the problem. This kind of intellectual honesty will force us to correct our course at the point of production and not the point of consumption.
2. Now that the election is over, there are some who feel that the regulations to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act are about to drop any day now. I’m skeptical of the imminence of the date, but I am nonetheless preparing my clients for it as if it were a pressing reality. Processors, producers, and distributors should read the act through to see how it will affect their interests. I am sure it will precipitate some changes in the way they conduct business.
By the way some of the provisions of the Act like mandatory recall went into effect immediately after it was signed into law. Economic losses due to recall are almost always not covered by a standard insurance policy, so the Act might already have exposed businesses to risks that they are not aware of.
3. My good friend Ed Cox at Drake University’s Agricultural Law Center put together a fantastic guide on Sustainable Farm Leasing that you might want to peruse in between turkey fueled bouts of narcolepsy. Tons of good stuff in there that can change the way you think about a simple legal document like a lease. I promised Ed I would secretly plagiarize him but my conscience got the best of me and I’m sharing it instead.
4. A classmate of mine from the LLM Program in Agriculture and Food Law at the University of Arkansas, Cassie Peters, recently published a killer guide to local food systems which she prepared for the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition. Anyone who has a serious interest in the look and feel of a dirt-up food system needs to read this.
Enjoy the days ahead. Try to buy a local bird.