Overregulation at its worst
Published: Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
We love to complain here in South Dakota about how Big Government would like to regulate business to death, and usually when we say that, we mean what the feds are doing in Washington, D.C. We ought to look closer to home.
The most stunning example of government overreach and over-regulation that we have seen lately is what the South Dakota Department of Agriculture has attempted to do to dairy farmers around the state who want to sell raw milk to that small group of consumers who want to buy it.
Raw milk producers are convinced the state would like to shut down their industry, and recently, the department gave them new reason to think they might be right about that.
On Jan. 21, the Ag Department suspended a Brookings dairy producer’s permit. It issued an announcement that was picked by media across South Dakota and beyond, saying a sample of the dairy’s raw milk tested positive for Listeria. When we talked to the state Ag Department about it, a staffer told us the department was carrying out the new rules the department approved in 2013, which require testing for Listeria.
The dairy was allowed to resume selling raw milk when subsequent sampling showed no Listeria. But when a Capital Journal reporter talked to the producer about the original incident that led to the suspension, we learned that there are several kinds of Listeria, and not all are harmful – and the strain found in this case wasn’t the kind that makes people sick.
Subsequently, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist told us this particular kind of Listeria is not even on the radar screen as a public health threat. Yet there was not a peep about that from our state Ag Department – not until the Capital Journal’s story hit the streets on Monday. Then the department issued a terse news release saying that further testing of the original sample determined the species to be one that is “generally not considered pathogenic bacteria.”
Wow – did the folks at the state Ag Department think that maybe the customers of that Brookings dairy, and the dairy’s owners, might have welcomed an official announcement of that finding sooner? With the same fanfare that accompanied the original announcement?
With all due respect to the Ag Department, it appears to us that the state temporarily shut down a business operation for nothing – a clear case of government over-regulation. Just like a teenager with a souped-up car, the state Ag Department has demonstrated it can’t handle a souped-up set of rules. Either the state Ag Department needs to come up to speed on microbiology and refine how it enforces its Listeria rule, or it’s time to deregulate.
The Legislature should give careful consideration to Senate Bill 126, Sen. Phil Jensen’s bill to make the Ag Department go back to something like the rules that were in place before the changes of late 2013. Then pass sensible legislation. Let South Dakota’s raw milk producers do business with intelligent consumers who have weighed the risks and the benefits of raw milk.
—Reprinted with permission
from the Pierre Capital-Journal
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