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Call Your Senators Today To Defend Family Farm Value Added - Processing and Local and Regional Food

Nov 11, 2010 -

Taken from the: Food Safety Action Alert - November 10, 2010

Debate and voting on The Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) is set to begin on the Senate floor on November 17th.  The bill takes important steps to improve corporate food safety rules but it is not appropriate for small farms and processors that sell to restaurants, food coops, groceries, schools, wholesalers and at farm stands and farmers markets.

NSAC thinks that these farms should have food safety plans appropriate to their size and processing practices.  But it is critical that as we ramp up food safety protections we don’t inadvertently do harm to  family farm value- added processing and the growing investments in local and regional food systems by imposing expensive, one-size-fits- all rules.

Two amendments will be offered when S. 510 comes to the floor and both are essential to protecting this important new engine for economic growth in rural communities and to grow the supply of locally grown food.

Please call your Senators and ask them to:

•    Vote for the Manager’s Amendment
•    Vote for the Tester-Hagan Amendment

It’s easy to call: Go to Congress.org and type in your zip code.  Click on your Senator’s name, and then on the contact tab for their phone number.  You can also call the Capitol Switchboard and ask to be directly connected to your Senator’s office: 202-224-3121.

The message is simple: “I am a constituent of Senator___________ and I am calling to ask him/her to vote for the Manager’s Amendment and the Tester–Hagan Amendment to the Food Safety Modernization Act.  We need a food safety bill that cracks down on corporate bad actors without erecting new barriers to more local and regional food sourcing.  Size and practice appropriate food safety regulation for small and mid-sized farms and processors is vital to economic recovery, public health, and nutritional wellbeing. “

Background:

Read our latest report: A Sustainable Agriculture Perspective on Food Safety.

What’s in the Tester-Hagan Amendment?

The Tester-Hagan amendment would improve food safety outcomes by creating size-appropriate requirements and less costly compliance alternatives.  The amendment will:

(1)  Clarify existing law which says that farmers who direct market more than 50% of their product to the consumer at the farm or at a retail location off the farm such as a farm stand or farmer’s market need not register with FDA.  This clarification is especially important for off-farm retail locations such as farmers markets.

(2)  Provides a size appropriate and less costly alternative to Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Plans (HACCP) for farmers who:

- Direct market more than 50% of their products directly to consumers, stores or restaurants, and
- Have gross sales (direct and non-direct combined) of less than $500,000, and
- Sell to consumers, stores, or restaurants that are in-state or within 400 miles.

Farmers who qualify must provide documentation that the farm is in compliance with state regulations.   Documentation may include licenses, inspection reports, or other evidence that the farm is in compliance with State, local, county, or other applicable non-Federal food safety law.  The farm must also prominently and conspicuously display the name and address of farm/facility on its label.  For foods without a label then by poster, sign, or placard, at the point of purchase or, in the case of Internet sales, in an electronic notice, or in the case of sales to stores and restaurants, on the invoice.

If there are no state regulations or if the farmer prefers a different option, the farmer must provide FDA with documentation that potential hazards have been identified and that preventive controls have been implemented and are being monitored for effectiveness.

(3)  Provides alternatives to the produce standards for farms that:

- Direct market more than 50% of their products directly to consumers, stores or restaurants, and
- Have gross sales (direct and non-direct combined) of less than $500,000, and
- Sell to consumers, stores, or restaurants that are in-state or within 400 miles.

The farm must prominently and conspicuously display the name and address of farm/facility on its label.  For foods without a label then by poster, sign, or placard, at the point of purchase or, in the case of Internet sales, in an electronic notice, or in the case of sales to stores and restaurants, on the invoice.

What’s in the Manager’s Amendment?

The Manager’s Amendment incorporates a wide variety of changes to the bill that have been added since the measure was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee late last year.  All of these changes have been approved by both the Democratic and Republican sponsors of the bill.  Among the changes are a number of very important items for farmers, including:

(1) An amendment sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to provide for a USDA-delivered competitive grants program for food safety training for farmers, small processors and wholesalers.  The training projects will prioritize small and mid-scale farms, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, and small food processors and wholesalers.  The grant program will be administered by USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture.

(2) An amendment sponsored by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) to reduce unnecessary paperwork and excess regulation required under the preventative control plan and the produce standards sections of the bill.  FDA is instructed to provide flexibility for small processors including on-farm processing, to minimize the burden of compliance with regulations, and to minimize the number of different standards that apply to separate foods.  FDA will also be prohibited from requiring farms and other food facilities to hire consultants to write food safety plans.   The Bennet amendment applies to all small farms and processors, not just those who direct market within 400 miles of their farms.

(3) An amendment sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for farms that engage in value-added processing or that co-mingle product from several farms  gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to either exempt farms engaged in low or no risk processing or co-mingling activities from new regulatory requirements or to modify particular regulatory requirements for such farming operations.

(4) An amendment championed by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to strip the bill of wildlife-threatening enforcement against “animal encroachment” of farms is also in the manager’s package.  It will require FDA to apply sound science to any requirements that might impact wildlife and wildlife habitat on farms.

(5) An amendment proposed by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) will not require small farmers to meet extensive traceability and recordkeeping  if they sell food directly to consumers or to grocery stores and allows labeling that preserves the identity of the farm to satisfy traceability requirements.    The amendment also prevents FDA from requiring any farm from needing to keep records beyond the first point of sale when the product leaves the farm, except in the case of farms that co-mingle product from multiple farms, in which case they must also keep records one step back as well as one step forward.



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