Once Again, Congress Takes Aim at Small Business

By Beacon Staff

For decades, I have avoided getting involved in politics. It annoys me. For almost two years, I have (mostly) avoided getting into it here at Business is Personal and the other places where I publish business advice.

But they keep on trying to drag me in, the CPSIA being the most recent evidence.

Once again, Congress is taking aim at small business – in this case, those in the farming and food businesses.

I should make it clear that I don’t have a problem with regulation. Anarchy is a poor alternative. Still, I have a big problem with regulation that destroys businesses that don’t deserve it (and yes, some do deserve it).

It’s easier to legislate the loss of jobs than it is to legislate the creation of them.

Because of the obviousness of that problem, Congress created a law called the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) to protect small business from Federal laws and regulations aimed at large businesses.

While “Regulatory Flexibility Act” sounds really nice and fuzzy and warm, it has a problem.

Any proposed new regulation or law can be excluded from the RFA simply by having the enforcing agency’s head “certify” (in other words, make a statement in the Federal Register) that they have determined that the law in question doesn’t impact small businesses.

For example, the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) recently entered official comments into the Federal Register (which is part of the process for making them enforcable) regarding several CPSIA issues important to small businesses.

One of the things in that Federal Register entry is the RFA certification statement that says the CPSIA “doesn’t impact small business”. In that link, see page 10479, section G where they make all things right by simply saying small businesses won’t be affected (there aren’t 10000 pages there, I wouldn’t do that to you).

Before polarizing factions start pointing fingers, let me remind you that *all three* Montana Congressional types voted FOR the CPSIA. Maybe they didn’t read it, but in this case, the law puttered around between committees for six months, so I doubt that’s the reason it got such a resounding vote.

No matter what they say about “creating jobs”, watch what they actually do. It matters to you, and it matters to your neighbor. There were only four votes in the entire Congress – both wings – against this law.

Is it inattention, intention or something else? I’m really not sure.

One of the newest threats to small business is HR875, going by the likable name “Food Safety Modernization Act“. Few would argue that we have food safety work to do.

Like the CPSIA, this law appears to target large food processing facilities, corporate farms, imported foods and so on. After all, you don’t hear about thousands being poisoned from foods purchased at the local farmer’s market.

Just like the CPSIA doesn’t differentiate between moms knitting booties at home to sell on eBay and huge Chinese factories importing millions of booties, the FSMA (HR875) doesn’t differentiate between the small local farmer (or the USDA certified organic farmer) and the large organizations that it seeks to clean up.

The FSMA even applies to the hucks you sell at your roadside stand and the morels you pick in the forest.

Finally, there is the new animal radio ID labeling regulation currently National Animal Identification System that is making its way through Congressional committees.

As someone who is regularly nagging you to measure everything you do, I can see the good in this. The problem with the NAIS, as with the CPSIA and the FSMA, is in the cost of implementation when you compare a large corporate farm to someone who organically (or not) maintains even one head of livestock somewhere in the Flathead Valley.

After spending a few weeks on and off suggesting that you start your own business, you must think I’m crazy given the efforts – intentional or otherwise – to snuff small business.

Do it anyway. In my view, it’s better to own and fight these battles than to be an employee whose boss is fighting them. Better that they need not be fought at all.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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