July 5, 2011 — Lassen County’s Board of Supervisors found itself embroiled in one mighty clucking controversy last week after a local chicken farmer asked the board to help him find a way through a conflicting maze of laws and administrative regulations so he can once again sell his poultry at local farmer’s markets.
According to information presented by the farmer, California state law provides an exemption for his small, homegrown operation from the regulations imposed upon large poultry producers who must process their meat at a facility approved by the United States Department of Agriculture or the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
On the other hand, an association of county health officials has approved regulations requiring all poultry to come from a USDA or CDFA approved facility. Following those guidelines, the local health department has advised the farmer’s markets the farmer may not sell his poultry at their venue.
The issue raises concerns for the supervisors. First of all, they may not have the authority to give direction to the county health department to resolve the conflict even though they provide the officials’ salaries and the office space from which they operate. Decisions made by Lassen County health officials simply may be beyond the board’s jurisdiction.
This is the third time in recent memory when decisions made by unelected administrative agencies have affected Lassen County residents. We cannot use burn barrels in Lassen County because a group of county air pollution control officers banned them statewide. Since Jan. 1, those seeking to build a new home in Lassen County must install an automatic home sprinkler system because a group of fire chiefs adopted a standard that originated with international law. Now local poultry cannot be sold at Lassen County farmer’s markets because a group of county health officials decided the chicken come from “an approved source.”
Certainly none of us want to choke on bad air, live in an unsafe home or eat tainted meat, and we recognize those regulations are designed to protect us. But these decisions should be made by the people we elect and not by faceless bureaucracies that lurk beyond our reach behind some fancy sounding names.
That’s simply bad government. We should never give up the right to directly participate in our governance or the right to redress our grievances.
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