If you like your local food and your local farmers’ markets, you’ll be interested in this. The U.S. Senate is about to take a vote on bill S.510 sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich) and co-sponsored by NC Sen. Richard Burr that would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad new authority over farming and food production. Thankfully, the vote has been delayed for a few weeks due to financial legislation work. It gives us more time to take action.
The issue is that the bill treats small farms, organic agriculture and local food businesses equal to giant corporate food companies, and it will crush the community food movement under these regulations.
Big agriculture and the FDA are pushing food safety regulations that rely on paperwork, inspections, and inadequate knowledge about the actual source of harmful microbes in food. While it’s agreed that healthy food should be the goal, the bill will actually do the opposite by hurting the local food systems that are the freshest and cleanest for us. Local food systems shorten supply chains and emphasize minimal processing which means fewer opportunities for food to become contaminated. Organic farming naturally creates healthy soils and plants that limit pathogen transfer to foods.
- The proposed federal legislation would crack down on abuses at large-scale food processing companies, but unfortunately, the bill applies the same standards to large firms as it does to community-based farm food entrepreneurs, imposing costs that the small business cannot survive.
- The bill gives the FDA authority to enforce “safe” crop production and harvest practices, but the economic cost of complying with those mandates are devastating to small and organic farms. Expensive fencing, paperwork, water tests, lost production fields, elimination of natural fertilizer options… the cost quickly skyrockets for the small family farm.
- The bill would require both small farms that process the food they grow and local start-up food businesses to establish and maintain a Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls (HARPC) plan. Corporate processors can easily absorb the costs of such plans, but small businesses cannot.
The new bill with its layers of legislation could actually drive the cost of food up, and that cost could be passed to the consumer. Not only that, but a lot of local producers could be driven out of business, forcing us to rely on a handful of large agricultural suppliers, potentially making the food supply even less safe.
Here’s what the Carolina Farm Steward Association states you can do to help to protect your small farms and local food:
“Ask Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan to defend small farms and local food with these changes:
- Require the FDA to write new, flexible rules for small businesses. The Senate should adopt the Bennet, Sanders, and Tester amendments. S.510’s produce standards and HARPC rules should not be applied to small farms and businesses.
- Establish USDA training programs for small farms and food entrepreneurs. The Senate should include S.2758, the Growing Safe Food Act, in S.510, and fund programs to get critical food safety information into the hands of small food producers. This is the best way to ensure the safety of local food.
- Eliminate pointless traceability rules for farmer-marketed products. Foods sold by farmers directly to consumers, restaurants and retailers should be exempt from bar-coding or other schemes meant for tracking products through the “Food Inc.” supply chain.”
Please take action and call Washington now! I already have:
Sen. Richard Burr, (202) 224-3154; Sen. Kay Hagan, (202)-224-6342