February 28, 2014
Sovereign Valley Farm, Chile
“Hey I just wanted to let you know, a guy from the local government was here today…”
That was one of the first phone calls I received from the manager of this place just a few days after I had taken over this farm a couple of years ago.
A visit from the government seemed harmless enough. My friends back in the US who were farmers always complained about incessant, nonstop visits from various federal, state, and local agencies ranging from immigration to census workers to food inspectors.
“How often do they come around?” I asked, hoping the answer would be something like ‘monthly’ or ‘quarterly’.
“I haven’t seen anyone from the government in eight years…”
Nice. And he was right.
In the years since then, there was only one ’emergency’ instance in which some guys from the Agriculture Department came to warn us about a plant disease going around which might damage the grapes.
As they drove off I thought of that old Reagan quote– “wow, they’re from the government and really were here to help…”
In stark contrast, a rather depressing story emerged from the Land of the Free this week demonstrating how the FDA is taking a very heavy hand to American farmers.
The LA Times reports that federal agents are swarming onto private properties across the country to regulate how Mom and Pop farmers grow their organic produce.
Of course it’s all in the name of protecting the American people. Just like the body scanners they installed at airports, why they spend hundreds of billions on foreign wars, why they read all of your email, and why they’ve launched a government retirement program. For your protection.
So now there’s a bunch of bureaucrats dictating everything from how organic farmers are allowed to compost, to how close animals can be to the crops.
(Naturally the big guys like Monsanto get a pass…)
Unfortunately it’s pushing small farmers out of business. Don Bessemer of Akron, Ohio recently called it quits after the government bureaucrats proved too much to handle:
“We haven’t poisoned anybody with an ear of corn for 117 years and we’ve shipped it all over. . . I can fight the bugs, I can fight the lack of rain, but when the guy comes with a clipboard what are you going to do?”
This is central planning at its finest. And it’s a pretty sad state of affairs when the only options are (1) going out of business, or (2) dealing with bloodsucking bureaucrats who know nothing about your business.
The truth is, though, those aren’t the only two options. As we tell our students each year at our summer entrepreneurship camp, there’s an entire world out there full of incredible opportunities.
Colombia, where my team and I just came from, is a place with amazing undiscovered possibilities. Here in Chile is another that I discuss frequently.
The world is full of thriving nations with boundless opportunities where you don’t have to serve feckless bureaucrats.
This is a hard mental adjustment. We’re programmed to view anything outside of our home country as perilous and to fear the unknown. So many folks would rather suffer in a place they know rather than take a chance on a place they don’t.
Fortunately it’s rather easy to overcome this mental hurdle by starting slowly. I’ve seen hundreds of people take their first trips overseas and be shocked at how modern and civilized many foreign countries are.
They find out it’s not so scary after all. And it sure beats the slow grind of watching your freedom and livelihood erode.