Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Cindy Skrzycki in the Washington Post has a piece on organic dairying and the USDA regulations (basically requiring "organic" dairies to put their cows to pasture 30 percent of the year. That seems an easy requirement, we went from May to October in upstate NY.)

I found this bit to be revealing:

"Barbara Robinson, who oversees the National Organic Program at USDA, said the proposal is expansive because the agency wanted to lay out as many options as possible for the organic industry.

"We have no hidden agenda," she said, adding that she hopes a final rule will be published in the spring. "It's their rule, their industry and their marketing claim."

What's happening here is true of many programs--the government runs a program for and on behalf of a small group of people, those whose life is tied up with the program. After all, how many people really care whether the pasture requirement is 30 percent or 50 percent? The dairymen and a few organic activists. The rest of us will decide whether to buy milk labeled "organic" based on our evaluations (price, perceived health benefits, perceived animal care values, etc.). This dynamic, though, works across the board in government. It accounts for "earmarks" and lots of "waste" and "fraud", much of which is in the eye of the beholder. The ordinary citizen will perceive things to be waste which would astound the person who's "into" the program.

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