After layers of rules on farmers, “regulatory fatigue”

“Produce growers represent a textbook example of what businesses describe as regulatory fatigue….’It is just that one layer after another gets to be — trying to top the people before them,'” says an apple grower near Albany. Food law expert Baylen Linnekin sees a comparative compliance advantage going to mass-scale growers as well as foreign produce suppliers. And now here comes the Food Safety Modernization Act, often warned of in this space [Steve Eder, New York Times]


  • Maybe requiring the removal of two regs for the imposition of one in this space would be beneficial? Wisconsin has a small growers law which removes most regulation… For example, I can maintain 150 egg laying birds and sell up to 1000 carcasses a year. Regulation is minimal. Must be clearly marked with the date of packaging. Must be maintained at under 40F and in the case of meat must be marked as uninspected.

  • I wonder if most of this couldn’t be solved by a simple respect of a federalist system. Looking through the article, I see “the Fair Labor Standards Act,” “the Food and Drug Administration,” “the Environmental Protection Agency,” “OSHA,” “U.S.D.A.,” “the United States Department of Labor,” and “the Food Safety Modernization Act.” Is there any chance that many federal agencies and statutes will do more good than harm? Or a better question: is there any chance anyone will be able to figure out the amount of good or harm they collectively do?

    Instead of pretending growing apples is interstate commerce (or whatever enumerated power this is supposed to fall under), why not leave it to the states? Maybe Washington (state) heavily regulates apples and people are willing to pay a higher price for the safety of a Washington-grown apple. Maybe Michigan has no rules and sells way below Washington because of it. If no one gets cancer or scarlet fever or diphtheria or whatever from Michigan apples, then Washington will probably lose market share until it reduces its regulations. Or vice versa, if people get sick from Michigan apples.

    Even if no one cares about enumerated powers any more, the old free-market argument for federalism seems like the easiest solution to these kinds of situations, where we think some is good, but we’re not sure how much is too much. A national government has little incentive not to over-regulate but lots of incentive not to under-regulate. A state government is going to have much more incentive to get it right, since being wrong means dollars go to other states.