Wednesday, November 30, 2011

If you buy an apple and feed it to a pig, is that solid waste?

In August the Snohomish county Health Department (SCHD) received a complaint about my farm. 
For background, I wrote about the original complaint here, and then a followup here, and then wrote about a farm visit here.    Farm visit:  I took the health department representative, two conservation district reps and my attorney, and we walked all over the farm and looked at anything they wanted to look at. 

This is the view of my side of the table.  Katherine is on the left, and Mike, her supervisor, is on the right, and we're talking about the complaint.   Not shown is my attorney, who is sitting immediately to my right. 
Solid waste on display in a supermarket

I think when I started my farm I had visions of growing things, and working with animals, and was a bit worried about flood season, and that it would be hard work.  The hardest part of farming for me is the constant regulatory activity.  Joel Salatin wrote a book entitled "Everything I want to do is illegal" and I have to say that I really, really agree with him.  There is nothing that I can do that isn't regulated by someone.

Ok, So we're sitting at this table, and we're talking about what I feed my pigs.  The health department doesn't like me feeding my pigs fruits and vegetables.  They'd rather I switch to a commercial feed; mike, the fellow on the right, made that suggestion.   If I fed a commercial feed, the health department would be just fine with me.   No violation, no enforcement, done. 
Ok.   You're skeptical.  I'm a little surprised too.  So I ask a question.  If I took a 50lb bag of pig feed, and poured it on the ground, would the health department object to that?  No, says both Katherine and Mike.  that'd be fine.  Ok.  If I took a ton (2,000lbs) of pig feed, and poured it on the ground, and the pigs ate it, would that be a problem?  Again, no.  Unanimous. 

So I asked:  "If I went to safeway, and I purchased an apple, and I took that apple and fed it to my pigs by throwing it on the ground, would you object to that?"  No, they would not.  " Ok, what if I got a 10lb sack of apples and dumped the apples on the ground.  Would that be a violation of any law? "  Yes.   
One of these is not solid waste.  Or is it? 

What law would I be violating?  "You would be improperly handling solid waste", says Katherine.  Ok.  I don't understand.  When I purchase the apple from safeway, is that apple solid waste?  No.  Ok.  I transport that apple in my car to my farm, and I feed the apple to the pig.  Is that solid waste? 
We have crossed the solid waste line.  Or maybe not.  No one knows. 

"Mr.  King, we'd like you to comply with the law.  This discussion is getting us nowhere.  We will not discuss this matter further." 

Commercial pig feed is made out of mostly corn and soybean meal.  It's processed vegetables.  I can feed as much of that as I like, where ever I like, and it's all ok.   I can throw processed vegetables on the ground.  Is the health department paid by Cargill?  

But apples are solid waste.  Well, somehow they become solid waste.  Somehow.  But they can't tell me when, where or how they do. 

Actual picture of the fruit I fed my pigs an hour after the meeting.  I am thankful that there are only 2 apples in this picture. 

Oh dear.  There are three apples. 

UPDATE:  It's not just Washington State.  Here's a story from Missouri about a fellow who was not allowed to feed vegetables raised on his own farm to his pigs.    His blog entry about the situation. 



24 comments:

Matt said...

Sorry to hear that Snohomish County just won't leave you alone. I'm still trying to wrap my head around their decisions (as I'm sure you are). So is their next move to start fining you?

Bruce King said...

At this point I have four choices:

1) Tell them that I don't agree that fruits and vegetables are solid waste, and ask them to cite and fine me. Once they've assessed a fine, I can then appeal the citation and fine and argue this in front of a (hopefully impartial) judge. Figure this option will cost me at least $10,000.00 in legal fees. It will cost the health department more than that.

2) I can put in some concrete slabs and have the pigs eat the same produce off the concrete slabs. I'd be feeding exactly the same fruits and vegetables, but on concrete. Call the health department and say "Ok, I'm now on concrete" and call it done. Figure this will cost me $1500 or so.

3) I can work with the conservation district on a farm plan. On receipt of the farm plan the health district and I can both look at it and figure out whether it resolves their concerns and whether it makes economic sense for me to do. Neither the health district nor I can approve the farm plan because neither of us want to agree blindly to something.

I can then either choose to implement it, or not. If I don't implement it, I can go back and choose either one of the options above.
At this point this is the option that the health district has agreed to. No enforcement action for 6 months or so while we work on a farm plan.

Or, (4) I could stop feeding produce and feed only prepared feed, which the health district has said is just fine with them.

Steve said...

"They'd rather I switch to a commercial feed; mike, the fellow on the right, made that suggestion. If I fed a commercial feed, the health department would be just fine with me."

Sorry for your plight against the fascist mentality. I am sure your county is not the only one that would do this.

Maybe if you just had a paper company hire someone to pick the produce up and then invoice it to you, and you pay by check that would make it "commercial feed?"

Perhaps if the feed was processed in some way as to alter the condition of the produce in order to make it more processed? Like adding lime or salt?

Get a copy of the ordinance/ statute and look carefully at the language. Maybe there are other ways to interpret this?

Good luck!

Bruce King said...

"Processing" the fruits and vegetables is an interesting idea.

Sagecreek said...

If it was me, I'd never let them on my property, and I'd invest in some privacy fence. lol The other thing I'd do is probably build some sort of feeder for the produce. Less waste and more difficult for them to see what I'm feeding.

Bruce King said...

Snohomish county (washington state, really, since it's a state law) isn't the only one that outlaws the feeding of vegetables to pigs. Here's a story about a missouri farmer who wanted to feed HIS OWN VEGETABLES to his pigs and was told he could not do that.

Vegetables raised on his farm.
http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2011/07/21/missouri-law-includes-vegetables-definition-garbage/

Sagecreek said...

This guy nails it: "The real swine in this case are the criminals in cheap suits who control the lives of others allegedly to save us from ourselves while growing fat off of the public purse. That people willingly submit to this subhuman treatment is the real problem here. Legislators and their enforcement mechanism are nothing but a gang masquerading as public service. Of course, it is obvious who is being served here."

I'd make them get a search warrant next time, ticket me, then take it to court.

John Schneider - Gold Forest Grains said...

oh my freakin goodness. This world is literally going insane! I cannot grasp the concept of their arguments. Bureaucratic Ridiculousness Syndrome. It is unfortunate that you are dealing with insane people...that's tough to fight.

sheila said...

Is large scale composting illegal? If not what are the regulations for composting organic matter? Essentially that is what you are doing. The pigs eat what they want and the rest becomes soil. Does covering the excess with a layer of carbonaceous (wood chips) material and occasionally turning the pile not make it you a composting operation? Isn't compost a marketable product and if so how can is not be legal to make compost?

paul said...

if produce raised for human consumption but that does not meet market standards is solid waste then a lot of people are braking the law. drop apples in an orchard, or excess pumkins in a pumpkin patch are often left to decompose in the field. with there logic this would all be solid waste. fight the good fight!

Sagecreek said...

"fight the good fight!" I agree Paul! We need to make these bureaucratic morons defend their actions. By attempting to find ways around these stupid laws and regulations we force them to create MORE regulation.

paul said...

ignoring for a moment the county's flawed position about solid waste, and instead just looking at animal husbandry, there does seem to be room for improvement. If the hogs are eating the majority of the produce before the next batch arrives then being on a slab would make it prety easy to do a quick pressure wash to remove the slime that would build up from some smashed and turning produce. safer and cleaner is better even with pigs. If the hogs can't keep up with the loads of pruduce then scraping off and composting the leftovers before putting the new load on the slab would help the new load last longer and reduce the potential for flies or smell. prety easy to due and better for both farmer and pigs.
now back to the county. If they were resonable the slab ideal would shut them up with out being a burden to the farmer. bruce is reasonable and if there is a benefit to his operation that is cost effective and helps him get along with his neighbors I am certain he would go for it. The county does not care about what is finacially feasable, reasonable, or fair. they cant even agree on what needs to be done among themselves. I do not know how to negotiate with someone that has no common sense and cant agree among them selves on what action they want.

Sagecreek said...

Well said Paul.

Bruce King said...

I agree with you, Paul.

sheila said...

Joel Salatin has a new book out (Folks, This Aint Normal) that continues that conversation about farmers, food and consumers.

http://www.amazon.com/Folks-This-Aint-Normal-Healthier/dp/0892968192/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322833567&sr=1-1

wooky said...

According to the law under piggeries you are suppose to remove and bury or incinerate the stuff every day. So ask them this. If you put in a concrete pad or better yet a sheetmetal box on concrete flats and if you poured diesel on it every few days and burned it would that make them happy?

wooky said...

One last idea. Are they specifically saying "slab" because those 12 x 12 stepping stones are concrete. Another option is the pre-made concrete pieces that go under central air units. All those options are portable if you end up changing you setup around or they change their minds. lol

wooky said...

Another way to spin it to them is that if you are allowed to use something more portable then you can move it so that any liquid waste can be more easily absorbed by the earth and not over saturate on area and potentially drain off into a water source somewhere.

Math Geek said...

Sounds like you should pour the cement pad to feed the pigs on. I am so sorry for this use of our tax money.

paul said...

hey bruce, perhaps I should not post this, but...

I do not know how to define solid waste, I just know when I hear it comming out of a county employee's mouth.

BigGAdawg said...

It seems that your local bureaucrats have the same malady that afflicts their kind everywhere. That condition being Cranial Rectal Inversion. I, like many others, would like to see you nail their hides to the barn door. However, the reality is it is your money not ours. It seems that the prudent course is to pour a nice concrete slab and get on with your life and your farming.

dinkleberries said...

http://www.citizens4freedom.com/Articles/tabid/1387/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/6436/Local-sheriff-defends-farmer-from-FDA-intrusion.aspx


Rob Johnson: "I would love to talk to the sheriff. One of my many initiatives is to educate the sheriff to their powers. Most are nothing more than revenue generation/collection tools of the state, when their true nature is supreme constitutional law enforcement officer, CEO of ALL courts in the county, with possee powers. Able to call upon the possee to even defend the rights of the people from other branches of government. The sheriff is also supposed to nullify unconstitutional acts and statutes, and ensure those pending court action face a VALID CAUSE of action establishing CORPUS DELICTI."

Rob Johnson is on FB. He also has a FB group: Sui Juris Law where you can get more info.

Kristi said...

So why is it that you can't feed fruit and veg to pigs, but the big dairies on Lowell-Larimer road can feed it to the cows? Strange set of rules....

Kristi said...

So why is it that you can't feed fruit and veg to pigs, but the big dairies on Lowell-Larimer road can feed it to the cows? Strange set of rules....