Friday, August 13, 2010

Write Your Representatives

Normally I write about cooking and eating - especially those ingredients that come from our farm share and from our local farmers' market. Today, I'm shifting focus to politics because these ingredients might be endangered!

Congress is tyring to pass S.510, the Food Safety Modernization Act. I'm sure they have the best of intentions and are working to protect citizens from illness, but the Act would hurt smaller farmers by making them jump through lots of hoops and deal with oodles of red tape. Please write your representatives in Congress to voice your concerns. The blog Agriculture Society has a great article on the bill. Here are some of her talking points:

1. The major food borne illness outbreaks and recalls have all been caused by the large, industrial food system. Small, local food producers have not contributed to the highly publicized outbreaks. Yet S. 510 subjects the small, local food system to the same, broad federal regulatory oversight that would apply to the industrial food system.

2. Increased regulations and record-keeping obligations could destroy small businesses that bring food to local communities. In particular, the reliance on hazard analysis and risk-based preventative controls, a concept similar to HACCP, will harm small food producers. HACCP has already proven to be an overwhelming burden for a significant number of small, regional meat processors across the country. Applying a HACCP-type system to small, local foods processors could drive them out of business, reducing consumers options to buy fresh, local foods.

3. FDA does not belong on the farm. S. 510 calls for FDA regulation of how farms grow and harvest produce. Given the agency's track record, it is likely that the regulations will discriminate against small, organic, and diversified farms. Although language calling for flexibility may be included, but there are no enforceable limits or protections for small diversified and organic farms from inappropriate and burdensome federal rules.

4. Food safety and security both come from a diversified, vibrant local food system. Local foods give consumers the choice to buy from producers they know, creating a transparent, accountable food system without federal government oversight. State and local laws, which are often size-specific rather than one-size-fits-all, are more appropriate for local food producers.

Let's work together to protect our food from safe,small and local sources. Find your representatives on by entering your zip code in the upper right hand corner.


M.Bulger said...

In regards to the Food Safety Modernization Act, there is a redundant campaign to derail this bill. It's main talking points are repeated here and are both inaccurate and misleading. Allow me to explain.

1. While this bill is designed to address the major contributors to foodborne illness outbreaks (i.e., major food companies), small producers have been at fault for outbreaks. This anti-S. 510 campaign likes to say that direct-marketers and small business should be exempted because they've not been at fault. Here are links to RECENT outbreaks attributed to small-scale food processors:

2. There is much agreement that SMALL-SCALE PRODUCERS ARE AN IMPORTANT PART of a safer food system. That is why this bill REPEATEDLY dictates that special provisions be afforded small businesses so that they are not unduly burdened. The bill calls for a public comment period during which issues such as fees and HACCP requirements will be resolved as they pertain to small producers. Furthermore, HACCP plans are much simpler than opponents of this bill would have you believe. The training can be done online and is quite inexpensive. A business that already has safe practices would only need to fill out a small amount of paperwork. To listen to FARFA, you might be led to believe that a small farmer would be forced to buy a new refrigerator and spend hours every day filling out forms. This is misleading.

3. Language protecting small and organic farms is ALREADY included.

4. This bill is explicitly NOT one-size-fits-all. In repeating this claim, FARFA is perpetrating a myth-telling propaganda campaign.

In urging you to support the Tester amendment, FARFA is playing upon your sympathy for local producers. As a supporter of small farms and local, diversified food systems, I find this offensive. The Tester amendment would exempt businesses well above what is currently defined as a "small farm" by the USDA. Operations twice the size of the current definition would be sneaking in with our real small producers and skirting much needed food safety stopgaps. I implore you to read the actual text of the bill before contacting you Senator, and consider the true nature of the Tester amendment.

Here is a link to the actual bill:

Thank you, for taking the time to think about this objectively.

City Share said...

Thank you for your comments. I'll be sure to read all the links you provided.

M.Bulger said...

There's actually a latest version of this bill here:

This one goes even further to dictate the considerations to small entities. It's all over the bill now.. not that it wasn't indicated before..

Have a good one!

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