The U.S. Senate is likely to vote on a Food Safety bill (S. 510) when it reconvenes after the election. Unfortunately, as the bill is currently written, small local farms and processing facilities will come under a sweeping new industrial regulatory standard that threatens to put many of them out of the food business. These small producers provide food for our local community through CSAs, farmers markets, local co-ops, and direct sales to consumers.
Sen. Jon Tester (MT), with Sen. Kay Hagan (NC), has an amendment to exempt small, direct-marketing farms and facilities. This amendment is critical to protecting local food systems and giving consumers a choice to buy fresh local products. It would be counter-productive and deeply disturbing if a bill designed to curb the abuses of Big Agribusiness snuffs out local food businesses as an "unintended consequence." Please call your Senators to urge them to vote for the Tester-Hagan amendment.
All of the well-publicized incidents of contamination in recent years – including the recent egg recall – occurred in industrialized food supply chains that span national and even international boundaries. The food safety problems in this system can and should be addressed without harming the local food systems that provide an alternative for consumers.
The growing trend toward fresh, local products improves food safety by providing the opportunity for consumers to know their farmers and processors, to choose products on the basis of that relationship, and to readily trace any problems should they occur.
Farmers and processors who sell directly to consumers and end users have a direct relationship with their customers that ensures quality, safety, transparency and accountability. For these farmers and processors, new federal requirements are unnecessary and would simply harm both the food producers and their consumers.
Although S. 510 includes some provisions for flexibility for small and diversified producers and processors, the bill still authorizes FDA to impose new hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls on facilities and to dictate growing and harvesting practices for produce. These requirements will impose significant expenses and burdens on individuals and small businesses. Please contact Senators Enzi (Toll free: 888-250-1879) and Barrasso (Toll free: 866-235-9553) and voice your support for the Tester/Hagan amendment for The Food Safety Bill (S.510). We need the Tester-Hagan amendment to protect our vulnerable local businesses!