A new national initiative launched by the Institute for Justice seeks to make sure the government stays out of some of the most personal decisions people make every day: what we eat and how we get our food. This nationwide campaign will bring property rights, economic liberty and free speech challenges to laws that dictate what Americans can grow, raise, eat or even talk about. Read an Associated Press feature on the National Food Freedom Initiative.
To kick off the initiative, the Institute for Justice (IJ) is filing three separate lawsuits challenging Miami Shores, Florida’s ban on front-yard vegetable gardens; Minnesota’s severe restrictions on home bakers, or “cottage food” producers; and Oregon’s ban on the advertisement of raw — or unpasteurized — milk. Each case demonstrates how real the need for food freedom is in every corner of the country.
“More and more, the government is demanding a seat at our dining room tables, attempting to dictate what we put on our plates, in our glasses and, ultimately, in our bodies,” said Michael Bindas, an IJ senior attorney who heads up the new initiative. “The National Food Freedom Initiative will end government’s meddlesome and unconstitutional interference in our food choices so that Americans can once again know true food freedom.”
Florida Vegetable Gardens
The first case in IJ's Food Freedom Initiative is a property rights challenge to a ban on front-yard vegetable gardens in Miami Shores, Fla. IJ is challenging that ban on behalf of Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll, a married couple who grew vegetables on their own property for their own consumption for nearly two decades before Miami Shores officials ordered them to tear up the very source of their sustenance or face fines of $50 per day. Read more about their case and watch a short video.
Minnesota Cottage Foods
Minnesota allows food entrepreneurs to make certain inherently safe foods — such as baked goods — in home kitchens, but it: (1) prohibits their sale anywhere other than farmers markets and community events; and (2) limits revenues to $5,000 per year. Violating these restrictions can lead to fines of up to $7,500 or up to 90 days in jail. IJ is challenging these severe restrictions under the Minnesota Constitution on behalf of cottage food entrepreneurs Jane Astramecki and Mara Heck. Read more about their case and watch a short video.
Oregon Raw Milk
In Oregon, it is legal for small farmers to sell raw milk, but they are flatly forbidden from advertising it. If they do advertise their raw milk, they face a fine of $6,250 and civil penalties as high as $10,000 — plus one year in jail. IJ is challenging this ban under the First Amendment on behalf of farmer Christine Anderson of Cast Iron Farm. Read more about Christine’s case for food freedom, and watch a short video.
These three cases raise important constitutional questions that show how meddlesome government has become in our food choices: Can government really prohibit you from peacefully and productively using your own property to feed your family? Can government really restrict how many cakes a baker sells and where she sells them? Can government really ban speech about a legal product like raw milk? The answer is no.
IJ’s President and General Counsel, Chip Mellor, says, “For 22 years, IJ has been on the forefront of protecting Americans’ property rights, economic liberty and freedom of speech. With our National Food Freedom Initiative, IJ will now bring that experience to bear in the most fundamental area — food — so that Americans can be truly free to produce, market, procure and consume the foods of their choice.”