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Posted: November 28, 2013 11:00 p.m.

With federal rules, insanity rules

A thinking person could easily believe we’re going crazy in this country. For example, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seriously considering lifting the ban on cellphone usage in planes flying above 10,000 feet.

Even if the ban were lifted, discreet and respectful people probably wouldn’t think of using phones within the confines of a plane and sitting elbow-to-elbow with strangers. But crass, selfish and incredibly egotistical individuals would.

Even the FCC commissioner reluctantly said he wouldn’t like to see the ban lifted, so why are we even talking about something that would be so offensive to most people — and possibly dangerous?

Here’s more: There’s been a ban in place since 1988 against plastic guns that can’t be detected by airport screening devices, signed by President Ronald Reagan and renewed under both presidents G.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The deadline for extending the ban is Dec. 9; it’s not as if Congress were blindsided by the need to extend the legislation.

However, on the last day of the current session, right before the Thanksgiving break, Senate Democrats hurriedly dropped in a bill to continue the ban that was promptly blocked by one Republican senator who said the legislation was ill-timed — even though it will probably pass easily. Oh, and on the Internet, you can find instructions on how to "print" a 3-D plastic gun on a printer that costs about $1,000.

Chew on this

New and ever-changing Food and Drug Administration food guidelines and warnings can drive me to distraction, although being diet-obsessed, I’ve taken a few to heart. However, just this week, we’ve been warned about possible danger in toast, cereal, chips, french fries and crackers, and consuming coffee. Really.

It seems they all contain a chemical called acrylamide, and in extremely high dosages given to lab mice, acrylamide can be carcinogenic. The high temperatures to cook these foods creates the chemical, thus it is suggested that we bake our fries, and make them thick; toast our toast only until it’s light brown, not dark and crunchy; and go easy on chips and crackers.

Curiously, dark roast coffee has less of the potentially dangerous chemical than light roast coffees. Wait long enough — or not very long — and this advice will change based on new research.

The "growing" popularity of locally grown food sourcing and organic produce as an alternative to corporate farming is going strong.

Proposed rules

Now comes a new round of FDA proposals aimed at produce growers that threatens disaster for small growers, organic farms and Community Supported Agriculture, unless realistic exemptions are included.

Safe-food advocates and victims of previous food poisoning and salmonella outbreaks are hailing the proposed new round of requirements at the same time that supporters of locally grown foodstuffs and the burgeoning small organic farming sector say it could drive many out of business. The preponderance of food safety problems, they say, is with the industrial-size growers, and fresh and cut vegetable packagers.

The new rules — some 1,200 pages — would require increased paperwork and costly training for farm workers; regularly reported monitoring of surface water sources and wild animal activity; possibly ban the sale of farm-made jams, jellies and salsas; and put restrictions on the use of manure used to boost soil in place of chemicals, among others.

It’s not that any of these proposals are outlandish, but they would put the same legal burdens on smaller growers as on major corporations far better able to commit accountants and lawyers to the new requirements than small family farmers. Attention to paperwork and testing would supersede attention to crops and productivity.

Covington’s Sara Vinson operates a small CSA and provides organic produce, eggs and homemade soaps and jams to her enthusiastic customers once a week.

"I’m familiar with the gist of the rules being considered, and it doesn’t look good for small producers, particularly those growing organically," she said.

"Among other things, the regulations could negatively impact the use of compost and untreated water — well water, in my case. I’m in favor of food safety, of course, but the problems seem to be with the industrial food system, not the small farmer, yet it seems the regulations would apply equally to both. This seems as crazy to me as requiring organic farmers to prove that they haven’t used harmful chemicals, while conventional farmers are not required to report what toxic pesticides and herbicides they apply to the produce millions of people consume, or if those fruits and vegetables have been genetically modified. There’s a good chance that I would have to stop selling and just grow for my own family. And, for those who can’t grow their own produce, the choices would most likely be limited to what’s available in the grocery store."

Look out for federal fixes to what’s not necessarily broken.

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Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics. She can be reached at barbm2158@gmail.com.

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