...or at least illness and mountain lion attacks.
Seemingly switching gears, in an opinion column last Sunday, Mercer went easy on Dakota Rural Action for its opposition to Keystone XL and Powertech and instead portrayed DRA's advocacy for raw milk and urban chickens as threats to public health and safety.
First, Mercer says DRA's raw milk advocacy offers puzzling support for unhealthy food:
Listening to many hours of testimony on raw milk, a person could wonder why Dakota Rural Action would be opposed to food safety.
The organization’s position, however, is defense of the little guy.
The argument is that small dairies are threatened by labels warning raw milk can make you sick and labels showing the date of production and the name of the dairy.
The state Department of Health supports the state Department of Agriculture on the new labeling rules [Bob Mercer, "Dakota Rural Action Renews Its Relevancy," Rapid City Journal, 2013.12.01].
Mercer oversimplifies DRA's argument. The labeling portion of the onerous rules imposed by the small-dairy-hating South Dakota Department of Agriculture is not a major obstacle to staying in business. Heck, small dairy operators will happily tell their neighbors and customers their name, the date they bottle their products, and the health facts about raw milk. The large mandatory labels the Ag Department wants will cost producers money, but even more burdensome will be the new battery of tests, well beyond those small dairies already perform in compliance with prior regulations.
Then Mercer turns his criticism to urban chickens, which he says will attract South Dakota's bête noire, the mountain lion:
As for letting people raise chickens in urban areas, a hen isn’t the same as a tomato.
Vegetables and fruit don’t cluck and crow, but they do attract animals. Chickens will attract other types of animals that, by nature, want to eat them and their eggs.
And there is South Dakota’s alpha predator.
Who knows whether chickens would attract immature mountain lions that make their way down from the Black Hills into backyards and neighborhoods [Mercer, 2013.12.01].
Yes, fear the chickens, because none of those trash cans, house cats, or succulent children are attracting pumas.
Dakota Rural Action is trying to protect some basic South Dakota liberties. On Keystone XL, they're fighting for your right to own your land and say who can and cannot use it for industrial projects. On Powertech, they're fighting for your right to drink water and not glow. On raw milk, they're fighting for the rights of producers and consumers to enjoy more choice in the marketplace. And on urban chickens, DRA is fighting for the basic right to feed your family as you see fit. In a purported conservative state consumed with discussions of personal liberty, this support for practical liberty makes Dakota Rural Action very relevant.