Jan 222014
 

I’m a bit late in blogging this news, but I’m delighted to report that the Institute for Justice has created a Food Freedom Initiative:

A new national initiative launched [November 19, 2013] by the Institute for Justice seeks to make sure the government stays out of some of the most personal decisions people make every day: What we eat and how we get our food. This nationwide campaign will bring property rights, economic liberty and free speech challenges to laws that dictate what Americans can grow, raise, eat or even talk about.

To kick off the initiative, IJ is today filing three separate lawsuits challenging Miami Shores, Florida’s ban on front-yard vegetable gardens; Minnesota’s severe restrictions on home bakers, or “cottage food” producers; and Oregon’s ban on the advertisement of raw–or unpasteurized–milk. Each case demonstrates how real the need for food freedom is in every corner of the country.

“More and more, the government is demanding a seat at our dining room tables, attempting to dictate what we put on our plates, in our glasses and, ultimately, in our bodies,” said Michael Bindas, an IJ senior attorney who heads up the new initiative. “The National Food Freedom Initiative will end government’s meddlesome and unconstitutional interference in our food choices so that Americans can once again know true food freedom.”

  • IJ is challenging Miami Shores’ front-yard vegetable garden ban in state court on behalf of Herminie Ricketts and Tom Carroll, a married couple who grew vegetables on their own property for their own consumption for nearly two decades before Miami Shores officials ordered them to tear up the very source of their sustenance or face fines of $50 per day. Learn more about their case: www.ij.org/FlVeggies.
  • Minnesota allows food entrepreneurs to make certain inherently safe foods–such as baked goods–in home kitchens, but it: (1) prohibits their sale anywhere other than farmers’ markets and community events; and (2) limits revenues to $5,000 per year. Violating these restrictions can lead to fines of up to $7,500 or up to 90 days in jail. IJ is challenging these restrictions under the Minnesota Constitution on behalf of cottage food entrepreneurs Jane Astramecki and Mara Heck. Learn more about their case at: www.ij.org/MNCottageFoods.
  • In Oregon, it is legal for small farmers to sell raw milk, but they are flatly forbidden from advertising it. If they do advertise their milk, they face a fine of $6,250 and civil penalties as high as $10,000–plus one year in jail. IJ is challenging this ban under the First Amendment on behalf of farmer Christine Anderson of Cast Iron Farm. Learn more about Christine’s case at: www.ij.org/ORMilk.

These three cases raise important constitutional questions that show how meddlesome government has become in our food choices: Can government really prohibit you from peacefully and productively using your own property to feed your family? Can government really restrict how many cakes a baker sells and where she sells them? Can government really ban speech about a legal product like raw milk? The answer is no.

IJ’s President and General Counsel, Chip Mellor, said, “For 22 years, IJ has been on the forefront of protecting Americans’ property rights, economic liberty and freedom of speech. With our National Food Freedom Initiative, IJ will now bring that experience to bear in the most fundamental area–food–so that Americans can be truly free to produce, market, procure and consume the foods of their choice.”

If you care about your access to foods of your own choosing and the rights of food producers to engage in voluntary trade, please consider donating to IJ! IJ is extremely effective and principled in their advocacy of liberty, and I know that my donor dollars are going to very good use.

P.S. With this initiative, the Institute for Justice is tackling a really important and growing aspect of statism in a way that resonates with ordinary Americans. They’re doing so on the basis of sound principles and facts, and they’re likely to effect change through the courts and public outreach. In contrast, ARI’s only activity in this area has been a series of propagandistic blog posts in defense of GMOs by an astrophysicist without an adequate understanding of relevant principles of biology. Basically, ARI’s approach seems little better than what Christian Wernstedt satirized here: The Tragedy of Milkia┬«: The Luddite Attack Against Industrial Dairy Progress. For this reason and about a hundred others, I’m glad that my donor dollars have long gone elsewhere, particularly to IJ.

 

Wow, check out this fabulous news from The Institute for JusticeFree Speech Victory: Court Reinstates Caveman Blogger’s First Amendment Challenge:

Arlington, Va.–This morning, in a big win for free speech, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that diabetic blogger Steve Cooksey’s First Amendment lawsuit against the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition may go forward.

Cooksey ran a Dear Abby-style advice column on his blog in which he gave one-on-one advice about how to follow the low carbohydrate “paleo” diet. The Board deemed Cooksey’s advice the unlicensed practice of nutritional counseling, sent him a 19-page print-up of his website indicating in red pen what he was and was not allowed to say, and threatened him with legal action if he did not comply.

The decision reverses a previous ruling by a federal district judge that had dismissed Cooksey’s case, reasoning that advice is not protected speech and hence Cooksey had suffered no injury to his First Amendment rights.

“This decision will help ensure that the courthouse doors remain open to speakers whose rights are threatened by overreaching government” said Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Jeff Rowes. “In America, citizens don’t have to wait until they are fined or thrown in jail before they are allowed to challenge government action that chills their speech.”

CLICK HERE TO READ THE DECISION

The three-judge appellate panel, which included retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, held that it had “no trouble deciding that Cooksey’s speech was sufficiently chilled by the actions of the State Board to show a First Amendment injury-in-fact.”

The appellate panel also dismissed the Board’s argument that its 19-page red-pen review of Cooksey’s did not chill his speech, noting that the “red-pen mark-up of his website from the State Board Complaint Committee . . . surely triggered the same trepidation we have all experienced upon receiving such markings on a high school term paper.”

The case, which has received significant national media attention, will now be sent back to the district court. Click here for George Will’s syndicated column on the lawsuit.

Steve Cooksey said, “I give people simple advice on what food to buy at the grocery store. I have believed all along that my advice is protected by the First Amendment, and I am looking forward to proving that the censorship of my speech is unconstitutional.”

IJ Attorney Paul Sherman said, “Steve’s case raises one of the most important unanswered questions in First Amendment law: Can occupational-licensing laws trump free speech? Today’s ruling means that we are finally going to get an answer to that question.”

[WATCH BRIEF VIDEO CLIP ON LAWSUIT]

For more on the lawsuit, visit www.ij.org/PaleoSpeech. Founded in 1991, the Virginia-based Institute for Justice is a national public interest law firm that fights for free speech and economic liberty nationwide.

It’s cases like this one that make me so pleased and proud to donate to IJ’s free speech division. Congratulations, Steve!

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