Agri-business News Money

Published on April 29th, 2012 | by Jessi Stafford

2

ALEC’s Influence Over U.S. Food Policy

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on TumblrTweet about this on Twitter

ALEC control

In politics, the word “attack” is often used when sweeping legislation seems to be introduced across the country against one specific issue. Think: attack on women, attack on health, etc.

But these “attacks” are often not as decentralized as one might think. Increasingly in the media and in water cooler conversations, the not-quite-lobby, not-quite-front group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is the culprit behind nearly identical legislative bills that attack our food system.

According to ALECexposed.org, more than 98 percent of ALEC’s revenue comes from corporations, corporate trade groups, and foundations, not membership dues. In other words, ALEC is nearly entirely funded by people with a highly vested interest in making sure their profits are not taken away by legislation.

ALEC and Food Policy

So, how does ALEC influence food policy? Well, as it turns out, the growing number of “ag gag” bills being passed state by state actually stem from “model legislation” prepared by ALEC. Ding ding ding.

These bills make it illegal for undercover investigators, concerned citizens, journalists, or anyone with a camera to capture “behind the scenes” footage of factory farms. Invested corporations are concerned that if Americans could see exactly where their food comes from and the horrors from within, we wouldn’t purchase from those companies anymore.

Rather than give us a democratic choice, these bills seek to hide the realities of our food system to keep us in line with the status quo.

It should be appalling how much power big corporations have over what we eat, think and do…but hopefully new light shining on ALEC will expose this deep corruption.

On ALEC Exposed, you can find zip files of these ghostwritten model bills and track who is funding what.

For example, a PDF of model legislation from ALEC, called the “Right to Farm Act” is meant to keep factory farms and food manufacturers from being legally designated a “public or private nuisance.” Essentially, this means that these farms do not want to be shut down for doing things like polluting, mistreating animals, dumping excessive amounts of manure, etc.

They would get away with this by having states implement this bill, which would say that as long as a company is operating under “generally accepted agricultural and management practices,” the state can’t crack down on them.

Hence the urgency for legislators controlled by these companies to stop legislation protecting the environment and animals. If we raise the standards for factory farms, or if we create any standards at all, then there would be written and binding accepted practices, rather than the codified word-of-mouth variety that currently exists, helping farms stay accountable to safety and welfare.

Usually, nuisance complaints are filed by citizens living around farms or factories, for example. If someone suspects the farm of harming its surroundings, a complaint can be filed and an investigation will ensue. ALEC is pushing states to implement this model legislation that would make the burden fall on the complainant, not on the company in question.

Here is some of the nuisance language helping keep factory farms off the hook:

“A complainant who brings more than three unverified complaints against the same farm or farm operation within three years may be ordered, by the {Insert Appropriate State Agency}, to pay to the {Insert Appropriate State Agency}, the full cost of any fourth or subsequent in verified complaint against the same farm or farm operation. In this section, “unverified complaint” shall mean a complaint in which the {Insert Appropriate State Agency} determines that the farm or farm operation is using generally accepted agricultural and management practices.”

If a company has had a complaint thrown out three times, the person issuing the complaint will be fined the next time. And you can be sure there are safeguards for making sure the complaint is indeed thrown out. All they have to say is that they are operating under the accepted industry standards and they are home free.

Another scary ALEC creation is the Animal & Ecological Terrorism Act, which can classify anyone protesting against companies who harm animals or the environment a terrorist, even if they are engaging in free-speech protected acts of civil disobedience. Read more about that here.

Now that some corporations are pulling away from ALEC as the group continues to be scrutinized, it may seem like we could get comfortable awaiting its demise. But in reality, corporations are the real power players, and they could easily make another ALEC as a tool to keep profits in place.

ALEC’s model legislation is dangerous, outrageous and infringes on our rights. But they aren’t the only kids on the block.

Image Credit: Creative Commons, stevendepolo

Keep up with the latest sustainable food news by signing up for our free newsletter. CLICK HERE to sign up!



Get social!
Use the buttons to connect with EDB on some of your favorite social networks!

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


About the Author

Social media strategist and writer. Passionate about food policy, education and women's issues. Has written for Vegan Mainstream, The Next Great Generation, Dig Magazine (Baton Rouge), BlogCritics , and occasionally for Vegansaurus . Will accept payments in coffee and/or tofu scramble upon request. Graduate of the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Journalism.



  • pembpix

    Why dont you folks make your own food chain and “get off the food grid” please give me an answer?!?!?!?!?

    • Tanya Sitton

      Soooo… your position is that when the people of a country notice that something the government is doing is a bad idea, the best course of action is to ignore it and everyone just do their own thing? What a great idea, for a representative democracy! Um, wait, no.

      In a country with our population size, and finite natural resources, it’s a better use of our shared resources to fix the food system that serves (or is suppose to serve) everyone who buys food in the US, than for anyone who spots a problem with that system to start a self-sufficient homestead.

      Any other questions? Hope that helped.

Back to Top ↑