Posted on Fri, March 27, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
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Everybody’s asking: “what’s up with H.R. 875 ( a bill proposed in response to recent large-scale and well-publicized food safety problems)? Why am I getting hysterical emails and phone calls?” On this matter we direct you to our trusted colleagues.
1. Food and Water Watch breaks down the bill clearly and effectively, letting us know what it does and doesn’t do. Their verdict=don’t panic, but do pay attention.
“There is plenty of evidence that one-size-fits-all regulation only tends to work for one size of agriculture the largest industrialized operations. Thats why it is important to let members of Congress know how food safety proposals will impact the conservation, organic, and sustainable practices that make diversified, organic, and direct market producers different from agribusiness. And the work doesnt stop there if Congress passes any of these bills, the FDA will have to develop rules and regulations to implement the law, a process that we cant afford to ignore.
But simply shooting down any attempt to fix our broken food safety system is not an approach that works for consumers, who are faced with a food supply that is putting them at risk and regulators who lack the authority to do much about it.”
2. Tom Philpott, over at Grist urges those of us in the sustainable food movement to resist baseless hysteria and focus on what’s there, quoting the Organic Consumer Association and saying “Quite sensibly, the OCA wants Congress to avoid “one-size-fits-all legislation.” Regulations that make sense for a 1000-acre spinach farm could push a diversified operation that includes spinach in its crop mix out of business. Sustainable-food advocates should oppose H.R. 875 until it adds scale-appropriate language. But effective opposition does not mean indulging in fictional rants about it. There’s no evidence that the bill aims to end farming; insisting that it does destroys credibility.”
In fact, it sounds like H.R. 759 is more pernicious, and actually, much more likely to pass (word on the street is that H.R. 875 doesn’t have legs). We recommend writing your legislators about your desire to see scale-appropriate language added to both bills—perhaps including exemptions for small farms. However, it is important that we avoid hysteria and untruths, and focus on the facts.
Per the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) :
“For now, what you can do is call your Congress member and Senators and them them that any produce safety bill MUST BE:
* Scale-appropriate. Federal law should support producers at each level, not impose a one-size-fits-all approach that runs small farms and farmers markets out of business.
* Risk-based. Measures to mitigate produce safety risk or to implement safety solutions must be based on actual risk assessments for different products and scales of farms, not assumptions based on an industrial food model.
* Science-based. Specific measures to mitigate produce safety risk or specific metrics included in produce safety solutions, must be based on sound science, specific to the growing conditions on individual farms. Funding research to develop a science-based approach to on-farm produce safety should be a priority
* Provide tiered compliance alternatives. Compliance with produce safety measures should be tiered to reflect farm size, market served and risk, for instance, a 2-acre fruit and vegetable producer selling exclusively through farmers markets or CSAs within 50 miles of the farm vs. a several hundred acre producer shipping produce to multiple outlets in multiple states. A tiered compliance program would include training on on-farm produce safety for all producers, with larger producers choosing to comply with more rigorous certifications to meet buyer specifications, not federally-mandated standards.
* Focused on education, not regulation. On-farm food safety should center around education and incentives rather than mandated regulations with punitive measures for non-compliance.
To find your Senators and Congress member, go to http://www.house.gov/, and www.senate.gov ; both sites have a tool at the top of the page to locate your representatives. When you call, ask to speak to the staffer that handles agriculture issues.”