“We all want food safety, but we don’t want to destroy the vibrant local and sustainable farming communities we’ve worked so hard to build because we allowed the FDA to implement poorly-designed regulations.” ~ Margaret Krome, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute
Over the next month, farmers need to briefly come in from the fields, and consumers need to wipe their fingers clean from end-of-season tomato juice, and go to the computer keyboard to get involved in an issue with great implications for everyone – food safety.
Let’s start with the obvious. We all want to eat delicious, affordable, healthy, and safe food. But right now, proposed new food safety rules put such basic expectations at risk.
In December of 2010, when Congress finalized a contentious process of overhauling the food safety laws, it addressed several aspects of food safety and, quite frankly, ignored some other important ones, such as pesticide residues, GMOs, excessive antibiotic use, and food additives. Because of the increasing number of food-related disease outbreaks in recent years, what Congress did focus on in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was microbial contamination of food
As the FSMA debates gained steam in Congress in 2008, sustainable agriculture farmers around the nation became alarmed by some of the early congressional food safety proposals and asked the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) to get involved.
Over the next two years, NSAC led negotiations for many provisions recognizing different contamination risks from different kinds of production and processing operations, and seeking appropriate provisions for different sizes and kinds of farms. Since, with few exceptions, most recent large food safety problems have resulted from industrial-scale production, processing, and distribution, NSAC and others persuaded Congress to create scale-appropriate remedies for small produce farms.
After FSMA passed, the Food and Drug Administration began the process of implementing the law by drafting rules, the first of which were released this summer. Certain provisions in two draft rules – the Produce Rule and the Preventive Controls Rule – excessively regulate small fresh market produce farmers and impair their ability to market fresh produce.
A few examples of the problems in the rules, as currently drafted:
But there’s good news! These are still draft rules. The FDA is seeking public comments on them until November 15. This is an important time for people who care about how and where their food is grown to stand up for their local farmers and defend their ability to farm against regulatory over-reach. We all want food safety, but we don’t want to destroy the vibrant local and sustainable farming communities we’ve worked so hard to build because we allowed FDA to implement poorly-designed regulations.
Because the rules are complex, sustainable agriculture advocates are organizing meetings in the Madison and Milwaukee areas to help consumers and farmers submit comments.
Your comments really do matter. Many times over the years, thoughtful public comments from involved citizens have prompted agencies to change misguided rules and regulations that would have harmed sustainable agriculture. Help this be one more time and join the efforts by submitting your comments on-line or by mail.
It is crucial that farmers and people who care about how and where their food is grown comment on the draft rules by the November 15 deadline.
Bring your laptop and come to a public info session. You’ll learn about the comment process and receive instructions and navigation assistance. Refreshments will be served.
Monday, Oct. 21, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa St., Madison [Map]
Monday, Nov. 4, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Willy Street Co-op West, 6825 University Ave., Middleton [Map]
Please help us get the word out by distributing this downloadable flyer about the Info Sessions – [PDF]
This article is by Margaret Krome, Program Director, Public Policy, at the non-profit Michael Fields Agricultural Institute.
It is important and vital that we don’t allow the large conventional factory farms to unfairly influence the FDA and regulate us small farms out of existence. Please take some sort of action.”
~ Mat and Cate Eddy, Ridgeland Harvest, Viroqua