"You can call your representative at the USDA when you're having this problem with apple codling moths and say, 'We've tried to get rid of them and it's not working anymore. Are you guys doing any research?' And they'll come and set up a research station on your farm and figure it out," she says.
And in some instances, both sides can reach a happy agreement.
For the past year, the Bledsoes have worked directly with Nevada lawmakers while the legislature has been out of session to carve out exemptions for farmers like them. Under proposed legislation, the Nevada Department of Agriculture would inspect their facilities and designate them "self inspectors," which would permit them to sell meat on their own farm without sending it 400 miles to a USDA processing plant. The bill will be introduced to the legislature during the 2013 session that begins in February, and Laura says she's optimistic it'll pass.
Hamilton, the agribusiness professor, says there have been several recent cases in which the government has carved out some regulatory room for smaller niche producers.
"For example, the big E. coli outbreak that happened in 2006 was really the catalyst to get the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement put into place," she explains. "Because the cost of these regulations are so onerous, there are exceptions that are made for producers below a certain size." The whole purpose of the agreement, after all, was to deal with greens that flow through a large food chain—from the fields in California to the packing and cooling sheds to the grocery store; the more marketing channels there are, the greater risk of a food safety problem. If you're a small grower, that chain merely extends from the farm to a local farmer's market, thereby limiting the risk.
But lest one be lured into a false sense of amicability between farmer and government, the self inspections weren't the only changes the Bledsoes hoped for when lobbying Nevada representatives.
"The first thing I wanted to include was the option to purchase raw milk," Laura says. "We were told right off the bat don't even go there."