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Here's a case of government working the way it ought to

Oct 3, 2012 - Jack Schmidt, Riverton

Editor:

In the six decades that I have participated in livestock production and marketing I have done my share and more of complaining about the government sticking its nose into my business.

Recently I have become involved in Fremont Local Foods, a group formed to help re-establish a market for locally produced foods of all kinds. They say the average item in your grocery cart travels 1,500 miles, even if it is a piece of beef that was born five miles away. Almost all foods leave, are processed somewhere else and are trucked back. Dumb, huh?

Well, in trying to rebuild this local farm economy one of our first steps was to start a downtown farmers market here in Riverton that is held every Wednesday afternoon. That has been a success, and we are looking for a venue to continue it all year.

But in the process of trying to market local foods, we ran smack into the government, namely the Consumer Health Division of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. We got wind that these wiley bureaucrats were trying to change the rules, and, by golly, we weren't going to stand for it.

The Consumer Health Department scheduled a series of public meetings to discuss these changes, and Fremont Local Foods got to work. We mobilized all the hard-core naysayers we could get hold of, and when they came to Riverton we were locked and loaded. They even brought the director of agriculture with them, but that didn't slow us down. Thirty-five strong, we descended on the meeting room complete with newspaper reporters and a TV crew, one state representative and one state senator.

And the darndest thing happened. They listened. We had a conversation and an exchange of ideas. And the system worked, like it should. Give and take, compromise, whatever you call it, it worked. We found out we were off-base on some things, and they listened to our suggestions on other points and followed them. Hey, this is how things should be.

So, on behalf of Fremont Local Foods, I would like to say thank you to Dean Finkenbinder, Linda Stratton, Shane Thompson, Dawn Helms and Stephanie Styvar of Consumer Health Services, and Jason Fearneyhough, the Director of Agriculture of the great State of Wyoming. We will probably get crosswise on other issues but for these -- well, government works.

For more info on the proposed food rules changes go to fremontlocalfoods.org

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