Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 28, 2009


Supermarket News - During the past few years, the growing popularity of local foods has been a boon to both supermarkets and independent farmers. . . But, a lot of small farmers are concerned about a bill being debated in the House this month - H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009.

If passed in its current form, the bill would give the Food and Drug Administration new authority to oversee on-farm production activities, and would expand the FDA's authority to quarantine geographic areas for certain foods when illness outbreaks occur, among other powers.

The bill does not distinguish between large farms and small ones, and those fees, penalties and new requirements become more and more onerous the smaller the farming operation.

While the bill has been amended since it first appeared in June, directing the FDA "to take into consideration, consistent with ensuring enforceable public health protection, the impact on small-scale and diversified farms," the new requirements would still seem to apply to all farmers that performed even the most minimal processing on-site, such as washing greens, making jams or preserves, or simply cutting fruits or vegetables.

When it comes to food safety, small farms are not the problem. If an independent grower takes a load of spinach to a farmers' market in Kansas, and that spinach makes 10 people sick, it's unfortunate, but it's hardly a crisis. . .

Small farms cause small outbreaks when they cause them at all. Big farms, big packers and big processors are the only operations with the scale to cause the big problems that these new regulations would purport to solve. . .


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the Food Safety Enhancement Act goes to the floor, I am writing as a
member of the Organic Consumers Association to urge you to please support
changes to H.R. 7249 that would:

1. Draw a bright line definition around small local food system
producers and processors; 2. Eliminate the flat $500 registration fee
or make it equitable, ensuring that fledgling local food producers and
processors are not saddled by excessive registration, fees, and
recording-keeping requirements; 3. Focus on documented high-risk
problems, such as uncomposted manure from grain-fed cattle and processed,
bagged salad mixes where E. coli 0157:H7 illnesses have originated; 4.
Require consultation between FDA and USDA's National Organic Program on
the development and enforcement of standards with respect to organic
farming; and 5. Protect wildlife and biodiversity and encourage
conservation measures such as perennial forage, buffer strips, and grasses
that can filter out potential contamination from neighboring livestock

These changes are needed to protect the organic producers, family-owned
farms and small businesses throughout the country that consistently
provide us with safe food.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

July 28, 2009 6:31 PM  

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