Sep 18, 2010

Action Alert: Protect our Farmers

Julie and I have been hearing a lot of talk at the farmer’s market about S510 the US Senate food safety bill. Our small farmers are very worried that the regulations in this bill could put them out of business. The bill is designed to make big agriculture and the industrialized food system safer. The recent egg scare will probably add fuel to the fire.

There are safety issues with food that comes out of a system that handles it in such mass quantities, but the answer should not include taking these regulations that involve new facilities, procedures, and equipment and applying them to farmers who are farming on small farms. Our small-scale farmers are not creating the problem. Not only can they not afford the regulations, the regulations are not appropriate for them.

Senator Lincoln told me (through an e-mail) that these regulations will not be applied to small farmers. But the law will give the FDA power to decide what should and should not apply to the small farmers. Based on my experience, I don’t have a great deal of hope that this agency can be trusted to “just be reasonable”. Small farms need to be specifically exempted in the law. This can be done by adding the Tester-Hagan amendments which exempt small farmers from the most burdensome regulations.

These amendments remain under negotiation, but (if adopted), they would provide an exemption for small direct-market farms and facilities from the new HACCP-type requirements and on-farm produce standards. The amendments only address the new requirements that FDA can impose under S.510; they do not exempt small farms and processors from existing state and local health requirements.

Particularly given FDA’s track record of favoring large industry over small-scale and sustainable producers, the Tester-Hagan amendments are vital to ensuring that local food producers can continue to provide healthy and safe food for consumers.

Find more information about the Food Safety and Modernization Act at the Farm and Ranch Freedom Allliance.

It is important that we contact both Senator Lincoln and Senator Pryor asking them to support the Tester-Hagan amendments.

Julie just sent me an e-mail about her phone calls to Lincoln’s offices. She said,

I just called Lincoln's offices (both of them) and said simply -

"I'm Julie from Little Rock and becoming more involved in the local food movement. As I talk with Farmers and others at the farmers markets we are concerned about what the farm bill (s510) means to the local food movement. Would you ask Senator Lincoln to consider the amendments that Tester and Hagan are proposing?"

Both people who answered said sure. One asked for my zip code. It was that easy.

I also submitted an email on this form:

Senator Lincoln’s Contact Information:

912 West Fourth Street
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
(501) 375-2993
Fax (501) 375-7064

355 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-4843
Fax (202) 228-1371

Senator Pryor’s Contact Information:

Arkansas Office
The River Market
500 Clinton Ave Ste 401
Little Rock, AR 72201
p: (501) 324-6336
f: (501) 324-5320

Washington, D.C. Office
255 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20510
p: (202) 224-2353
f: (202) 228-0908
Toll Free from AR
p: (877) 259-9602

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