The Family Farm a Security Threat?
Steve Messmer

Imagine sitting comfortably at home enjoying a cup of coffee and going over some figures for your home or farm business. An unknown car pulls up in your driveway. Two smartly dressed individuals emerge and make their way to your doorstep; they knock, and upon opening the door you are greeted with a smug look and the flash of a badge from federal agents who demand immediate access to your home business — or else!

That is the terrifying treatment that Lively Run Goat Dairy and other small family “farm producers” (farms that make a finished product, such as cheese) have been forced to endure unannounced from a government that is supposed to be protecting us from terrorism.

In today’s “security climate,” federal bureaucrats have identified the family farm as a terrorism threat. Our operation has been producing and marketing gourmet goat cheese since 1982. We are licensed and inspected by the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets. This involves two to four visits a month by state inspectors, every month, year after year. These inspectors know our operation intimately. Nothing out of the ordinary is likely to escape their attention.

Nevertheless, since September 11, 2001, federal bureaucrats have decided that farm producers are a threat to public safety, and they apparently do not consider New York State’s extensive, publicly-funded inspections to be sufficient. Now they unleash investigators to impose upon family farms once a year — as if this could improve upon New York State’s exhaustive programs or uncover something the State has not seen in the intervening 12 months. There has been no written notification to farmers regarding the goals, timeframe or process for the visits that are now being made. Lively Run has been visited twice since 2001.

The Food and Drug Administration agents who appeared at our farm in November from the Jamaica, NY FDA office, walked into the room where we store our milk, pointed at the refrigeration tank where we keep raw milk (before it is pasteurized), and asked us if the tank was a pasteurizer — this after already seeing our pasteurizer in the cheese room! Faced with this astounding incompetence on the part of FDA agents and their lack of recognition of extant state-level inspection systems, concerned citizens everywhere should be wondering what the ulterior motives of this intrusive, redundant bureaucracy might be. And what does this mean for the future liberty of our homes and businesses? Today it is our family farms … will they be in our living rooms tomorrow?

Steve, a consulting engineer, owns and operates Lively Run Goat Dairy in Interlaken, NY with his wife Susanne.