How with the new Food Safety Bill impact small farms?

The recall of a half million eggs is likely to help move the Food Safety bill, S 510,  through the U.S. Senate (a similar bill already passed the House) more quickly.   Small farm advocates have been suspicious of the intent (or at least the impact) of the proposed legislation.  While I certainly understand why we might be suspicious of anything coming from the federal government, in this case – I believe we need this legislation.

A recent brief from the Senate staff suggests that the legislation is NOT aimed at small farms. Specifically it states:

  • Regulatory Flexibility for Organic Foods
    Throughout the bill, consideration is given to the unique agricultural practices and requirements of organic foods under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.

  • Protections for Farmers Markets, Cottage Industries and Direct Farm-to-Market Sales
    Small entities that produce food for their own consumption or market the majority of their food directly to consumers or restaurants are not subject to registration or new record keeping requirements under S. 510. This includes food sold through farmers’ markets, bake sales, public events and organizational fundraisers.

For details, here is a summary of the amendments that have been filed to protect small farms from being unfairly disadvantaged.  Personally, I can support this bill – BUT it is not a cure all.  There are bigger, more systemic problems associated with the industrial food system, such as:

1.  Factory farms that produce virulent forms of E. coli

2. The exploitation of people, the land and community.

3. The dependency of industrial agriculture on rapidly diminishing supplies of fossil fuel.

I believe the most effective action we can take s individuals and families is to grow food justly”

For more on solutions see; Just Food Now.


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2 thoughts on “How with the new Food Safety Bill impact small farms?”

  1. John, the NSAC article is no summary. Rather, it highlights successes NSAC had and comments on the absence of the BPA and Tester-Hagan amendments. I have not seen a summary which I would call comprehensive. All are from a point of view. The best I’ve seen from the sustainable ag point of view is FARFA’s. There are links to its pieces in the green box at http://farmandranchfreedom.org/.

    As far as I can tell, the brief you cited was produced and disseminated for purely political purposes. “The Hill” noted it had been circulated widely but has never identified the author(s). As it appeared on the day the Managers’ package was released and is based on that package. It is quite similar to one that the Make Our Food Safe (MOFS) coalition disseminated out on the original version. My guess is that it was written by the staff of the 6 person Managers’ group or MOFS. The fact that no one has ever claimed authorship bothers me.

    Both of the sections you quoted are quite misleading.

    In the case of the NOP, the actual provisions are only guidance and can be easily circumvented. In addition, the FDA has the final authority. It clearly has the authority to specify rules that violate the NOP.

    As for the Protections for Farmers Markets, Cottage Industries and Direct Farm-to-Market Sales, they, too, are only guidance and are easily circumvented. In addition, it is impossible to tailor HARPC plan requirements. Something is either a HARPC plan or it isn’t. There is no way to have a simpler version for small entities.

    Finally, the statement about being subject to registration was clearly designed to hide the truth under a false appearance. Neither S 510 nor HR 2749 has been criticized for expanding registration. They are criticized for using it as the trigger for HARPC plans, traceability and food defense plans. The problem is that the FDA used its rulemaking power to narrow the definition of farm so that much a modern farmer does requires registration. Examples of facilities are the joint packing or processing facilities created with other farmers and the use of a regional processing facility to make your own pickles, etc. These can activities can’t be exempted because you are a farm but only if you are a “retail food establishment.”

    The HARPC plans are ONLY EFFECTIVE in the controlled environment of a manufacturing facility where processes exist to completely eliminate a given hazard. They are ONLY COST EFFECT & NEEDED when there are a high number of units. No small processor can afford them. Those using a subsidized regional kitchen/processor can never do enough units to successfully amortize their cost.

    These plans are also being applied to dairies and bakeries for the first time in this country.

    HARPC plans will have the same effect that HACCP had in meat processing–consolidation and almost no new small processors being built. Food & Water Watch documented this very well on the meat side and completely ignore that they same thing will happen with fruits and vegetables.

    As someone oriented toward Western MA, haven’t you seen CISA’s report “HACCP for Leafy Greens?” It clearly shows that formal food safety plans fashioned after HACCP are beyond the capacity of most small growers and processors.

    In addition, HARPC plans are required for distributors and storage facilities due to their “holding” (i.e., storing) food. Good Handling Practices (GHP’s) already exist that control their hazards. In fact, the hazards are controlled so well, I haven’t been able to find an example on an outbreak that originated in either a distributor or storage facility. So why are they included?

    Local, healthy food may survive the Managers’ amendment of S 510, but our movement will no longer thrive and much that I love about it will be destroyed. Worst of all, the stream of people coming from cities to rural areas to try agriculture as a career will largely disappear when as it becomes clear that very few will be able to support themselves by farming alone.

    John, I urge you to reconsider your position on S 510 and strongly support Tester-Hagan.
    .

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