I’m just a blogger, with little time to compose truly effective columns. Fortunately, we have a few organizations who do it for us. This piece from the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund came out on Tuesday and is worth reprinting in its entirety, especially after the last post’s rants. If you care about farms like ours, this is really important to read. There’s a lot of hot air floating around the web, but FTCLDF is a solid, reliable organization.
What really hurts is that we’re being betrayed by both parties. Democrats who claim to want to support small farms and local foods for leftish reasons are rushing to push over-regulations that will do the opposite. Republicans who ought to be offended by this much government power-grabbing are ignoring the libertarian principles they’re so proud of when it comes to Wall Street. There’s no one we can turn to.
November 10, 2009
The debate on food safety is heating up in Congress! The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) is planning to mark up S. 510, the Senate version of the draconian House food safety bill (H.R. 2749). This is a major step towards passing the bill. Big Ag and Big Food have distributed melamine-contaminated milk from China and salmonella-contaminated peppers from Mexico. Yet Congress hasn’t gotten the message that they need to solve the real problems – the centralized food distribution system and imported foods – and not regulate our local food sources out of business. We need your help to make them listen! Please read through the problems with the bill and then call your Senators (details below).
PROBLEMS WITH THE BILL
1. The bill applies to all food, not just food in interstate commerce. On its face, the bill applies to any farm or food producer, regardless of location, size, or scope of distribution. If the intent truly is to limit the bill to food that is crossing state lines, then it must be amended. And even then, the bill would still negatively impact small farmers and food processors who live near state lines and who cross state lines to reach local farmers markets and co-ops.
2. The major foodborne illness outbreaks and recalls have all been caused by the large, industrial food system. Small, local food producers have not contributed to the highly publicized outbreaks. Yet S. 510 subjects the small, local food system to the same, broad federal regulatory oversight that would apply to the industrial
3. FDA regulation of local food processors is unnecessary and overly burdensome. Federal regulations may be needed for industrial, large-scale processing facilities that source raw ingredients from multiple locations (sometimes imported from other countries) and ship their products across the country, but federal regulation is overkill for small, local processors. Existing state and local public health laws are enough for local food sources.
4. Relying on HACCP will harm small processors. S. 510 applies a complex and burdensome Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system to even the smallest local food processors. Although HACCP may be good in theory a good theory for large, complex facilities, USDA’s implementation of HACCP, with its requirements to develop and maintain extensive records, has already proven to be an overwhelming burden for a significant number of small, regional meat processors across the country. In the meat industry, HACCP has substituted paperwork review for independent inspections of large meatpacking plants, while sanctioning small processors for paperwork violations that posed no health threat. Applying a HACCP system to small, local foods processors could drive them out of business, reducing consumers’ options to buy fresh, local
5. FDA does not belong on the farm. S. 510 calls for FDA regulation of how farms grow and harvest produce. Given the agency’s track record, it is likely that the regulations will discriminate against small, organic, and diversified farms. The House version of the bill directs FDA to consider the impact of its rulemaking on
small-scale and diversified farms, but there are no enforceable limits or protections for small diversified and organic farms from inappropriate and burdensome federal rules.
6. S. 510 favors foreign farms and producers over domestic. The bill creates incentives for retailers to import more food from other countries, because it burdens family farms and small business and because it will be practically impossible to hold foreign food facilities to the same standards and inspections. The bill will create a considerable competitive disadvantage for ALL U.S. agriculture and food production.