Posted: March 14, 20091:00 am Eastern
It appears that the lawmakers who assemble in Washington have no idea what the Constitution says, or worse, they simply don't care. The Fourth Amendment says quite clearly:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated. â€¦"
Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro has introduced the "Food Safety and Modernization Act of 2009 (H.R. 875). Her bill will create a new Food Safety Administration and give its administrator the authority to "conduct monitoring and surveillance of animals, plants, products or the environment" on every family farm, ranch, vineyard and fishing hole in the country. Moreover, the administrator can visit and inspect the property and demand that the owner present "papers and effects," and all records relating to food production.
There is nothing in this bill that requires the administrator show probable cause or that evidence be presented to a judge to secure a warrant for entry into the property. The Fourth Amendment explicitly prohibits government from entering private property without a warrant, "describing the place to be searched, and the persons or thing to be seized."
DeLauro and the 39 Democratic co-sponsors of this bill must have missed this very clear language when she wrote into the bill authorization for the administrator to seize up to $1 million each day a violation exists. Section 405 of the bill says that "the validity and appropriateness of the order of the Administrator assessing the civil penalty shall not be subject to judicial review."
If there were no other problem with this bill, this gross violation of the Fourth Amendment should be sufficient reason for the proposal to be killed and buried by the first committee that hears it.
Food safety is a legitimate governmental pursuit; the invasion of private property is not. This bill redefines the concept of "due process" to mean that government dictates the process and private citizens must pay whatever government says is due.
This bill gives the proposed "Food Safety Administration" broad, "brown-shirt" authority to regulate and manage every facet of the food industry. The administrator can require every backyard gardener: to register his property, submit a written production plan, admit unannounced inspectors, present copies of production records and payment of fines for any infraction declared by the brown-shirts.
H.R. 875 would include the National Animal Identification System, which the USDA has been trying to impose for several years. At a five-hour congressional hearing Wednesday, not one word was said about constitutional authority for government to mandate the registration of private property and surrender private information to the government.
Dr, John Clifford, representing the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Service, a strong advocate for the program, spoke for more than an hour. He did admit that the animal identification program was required by the World Organization for Animal Health as a prerequisite for international trade. Opponents of the measure were allowed only 10 minutes, divided between two speakers.
Witnesses and members of Congress spoke about the need to mandate a program to register every premises, tag every animal and track the movement of every animal â€“ to protect food safety. Dr. Max Thornberry, representing R-CALF USA, one of the opponents, told the committee that existing systems fully protected food safety all the way to the slaughterhouse, and that from the slaughterhouse to the grocery store is where food safety should be improved.
Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson said that a major outbreak of a disease such as hoof and mouth disease could cost between $30 billion and $300 billion. He said that the cost of implementing a mandatory national identification system was nothing compared to the potential loss in the event of a disease outbreak. He did not mention, however, that the last outbreak of hoof and mouth disease occurred in 1929, caused by an animal imported from Argentina, and that the outbreak was contained in less than a month without NAIS, at a time when not even telephones were in common use.
Scenarios that use food safety and potential cost of a disease outbreak are smoke screens to distract attention away from the fact that for nearly 80 years there has been no major disease outbreak because existing systems make American food the safest in the world. The system proposed by the NAIS and H.R. 875 would not improve food safety, but would give the federal government absolute control over the food supply of every individual and would bring the United States into compliance with the requirements of United Nations agencies that administer global governance.
USDA officials and congressmen complain that only about one-third of the nation's livestock owners are enrolled in the NAIS (many of whom were enrolled without their knowledge), despite nearly $150 million spent over the last five years. This should be strong evidence that the people most affected by the proposed program simply do not want it. In view of this evidence, one would think that legislators who claim to represent the people would trash the NAIS and H.R. 875 and move on to another issue.
Instead, they continue to ignore the expressed will of the people, ignore the Fourth Amendment and prepare to make the NAIS mandatory through H.R. 875 or a similar bill. This is how lawmakers trash the Constitution.