Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Tester Amendment Picks Up Cosponsor

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) has picked up a key supporter for his amendments intended to ease the impact of the pending food safety legislation on small farms. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) announced late last week she will cosponsor Tester’s amendments to “protect small, local food producers from unnecessary and burdensome regulations that could harm their businesses.”

small-farmer2.jpgThe amendments–which have wide support in sustainable agriculture circles–have drawn opposition from food safety experts and interest groups who do not believe there should be any exemptions from the updated food safety regulations.

As outlined by Hagan’s office, the amendments would:

(1) exempt facilities with gross incomes of

less than $500,000 from certain performance and recordkeeping

requirements that could overburden a small producer.

(2) protect small producers that primarily sell

directly to restaurants and consumers from new FDA performance

requirements.

David Acheson, former associate commissioner of foods at FDA, told Food Safety News last month he sees no

solid evidence that food from small scale farms is microbiologically

safer. “It is asking for

trouble…and it is not sound public health policy,” he said, of Tester’s amendments.

But Hagan is backing small farmers in her state who are concerned the FDA regulations will be overly burdensome. Farmers in North Carolina have been among the most vocal advocates for amending the pending food safety legislation–and many are downright opposed to it.
 
“We need a robust prevention and response system to handle outbreaks of foodborne illnesses,” Hagan said in a statement Friday. “But we have many hardworking small producers and family farms in North Carolina, and it is unnecessary for these producers to be saddled with new regulations and paperwork.”
 
“I am working with my colleagues to make changes to the food safety bill to allow our smaller producers to continue operating under existing state regulations,” said Hagan. “These amendments will ensure we do not overburden our small farms.”
 
According to Hagan’s office, the Senate food safety bill, which was unanimously voted out of Committee in mid-November, is likely to be considered on the Senate floor “soon.”

According to Hill staff, there is currently no hard timeline for bringing the bill to the floor for consideration.

© Food Safety News
  • Quote: “We need a robust prevention and response system to handle outbreaks of food borne illnesses,” Hagan said in a statement Friday. “But we have many hardworking small producers and family farms in North Carolina, and it is unnecessary for these producers to be saddled with new regulations and paperwork.”
    Talking about paperwork, just how much time does it take a producer to do his records from tillage before planting – 4 minutes, planting itself – 7 minutes, per fertilizer applications – 2 minutes, spraying with bio’s or chemicals – 4 minutes, cultivation – 3 minutes, harvesting – 3 minutes, and adding a ScoringAg unique identifier traceback code by rubber stamp to his product – 3-5 seconds for traceback.
    The ScoringAg database recordkeeping and traceback system, electronically or on paper is easy and fast as the records happen over a 2-4 months growing season and spending a few minutes at a time does not cost but pays to prove that the farmer did his job correct. At the same time you have a robust and proven preventions and response system without any extra work or costs.
    Quote: ”I am working with my colleagues to make changes to the food safety bill to allow our smaller producers to continue operating under existing state regulations,” said Hagan. “These amendments will ensure we do not overburden our small farms.”
    The overburden surely doesn’t exist from recordkeeping and as for costs: a small farm with 10 acres with three fields of produce or crops would cost $10.10 for a season use of ScoringAg recordkeeping and traceback system. A larger farm with 160 acres of 10 crops, 20 head of livestock and a packing shed labeling every bin, case or box of product about $200.00 per year. A small price to pay for consumer food safety and farm security for documentation that can not be counterfeited or changed by anyone. How do I know this? I’m a farmer for 30+ years.

  • hhamil

    Thanks for reporting Sen. Hagan’s decision. FSN has a much better record of reporting our side of the issue than all but one mainstream news outlet.
    Mr. Kanitz demonstrates the same abysmal ignorance of the Tester amendments as every “food safety professional” whose public response I’ve seen.
    Sen. Tester proposes amendments to Sec. 103 and 105 that have nothing to do with the examples he cites. His amendment on recordkeeping keeps the requirement the same as the current one up, one back. What Mr. Kanitz proposes has nothing to do with a “robust prevention and response system” except traceback. And traceback, as shown above, is not a problem when the supply chain is short.
    Finally, Mr. Kanitz, your system is of no use unless it interfaces with similar recordkeeping downstream. Go out to the WNC Farmers Market in Asheville, NC and see how many records are kept on the thousands of tons of produce changing hands there. Almost none, despite laws in place since 12/9/04. Very few are even registered as food facilities and have never even heard of the requirement. So much for FDA enforcement.
    As for Dr. Acheson, only Sen. Tester’s amendment to Sec. 105 has anything to do with his comment. As shown by the Alliance for Food and Farmings’ study (http://www.foodandfarming.info/docs/386Produce_Analysis_2010_Final.pdf ), only 2.2% of the outbreaks (and 6.1% of the total cases) of foodborne illness recorded by the CDC from 1990 through 2007 originated on farms and involved the fruit and veggies subject to Sec. 105. While at the FDA, Dr. Acheson had the authority to order an epidemiological review of the CDC data that would have provided that information but he didn’t. Now, he’s complains for the lack of the information. And, importantly, his new employer, Leavitt Partners, was created to take advantage of this type of regulation. Read his 4-13-10 take on S 510 and don’t miss the comment by Mr. Kanitz. (http://leavittpartners.com/news/is-fda-about-to-get-significant-new-food-safety-legislative-authority/).

  • Harry Hamil

    Thanks for reporting Sen. Hagan’s decision. FSN has a much better record of reporting our side of the issue than all but one mainstream news outlet.
    Mr. Kanitz demonstrates the same abysmal ignorance of the Tester amendments as every “food safety professional” whose public response I’ve seen.
    Sen. Tester proposes amendments to Sec. 103 and 105 that have nothing to do with the examples he cites. His amendment on recordkeeping keeps the requirement the same as the current one up, one back. What Mr. Kanitz proposes has nothing to do with a “robust prevention and response system” except traceback. And traceback, as shown above, is not a problem when the supply chain is short.
    Finally, Mr. Kanitz, your system is of no use unless it interfaces with similar recordkeeping downstream. Go out to the WNC Farmers Market in Asheville, NC and see how many records are kept on the thousands of tons of produce changing hands there. Almost none, despite laws in place since 12/9/04. Very few are even registered as food facilities and have never even heard of the requirement. So much for FDA enforcement.
    As for Dr. Acheson, only Sen. Tester’s amendment to Sec. 105 has anything to do with his comment. As shown by the Alliance for Food and Farmings’ study (http://www.foodandfarming.info/docs/386Produce_Analysis_2010_Final.pdf ), only 2.2% of the outbreaks (and 6.1% of the total cases) of foodborne illness recorded by the CDC from 1990 through 2007 originated on farms and involved the fruit and veggies subject to Sec. 105. While at the FDA, Dr. Acheson had the authority to order an epidemiological review of the CDC data that would have provided that information but he didn’t. Now, he’s complains for the lack of the information. And, importantly, his new employer, Leavitt Partners, was created to take advantage of this type of regulation. Read his 4-13-10 take on S 510 and don’t miss the comment by Mr. Kanitz. (http://leavittpartners.com/news/is-fda-about-to-get-significant-new-food-safety-legislative-authority/).

  • Doc Mudd

    I value and trust the learned, honest opinions of “food safety professionals”…professionals who recognize the foolishness of Tester’s amendment. I also have the utmost respect for the insight of experienced farmers such as Mr. Kanitz who manage their businesses intelligently…including any necessary paperwork as a matter of routine.
    .
    I never cease to be shocked and awed by the “abysmal ignorance” of various blustering food safety amateurs. Amateurs who insist that intelligent producers are unable to measure up to basic food safety standards and, so, plead for their complete exemption.
    .
    I worry for these same apologists who think a 2.2% incidence of CDC-recognized food poisoning outbreaks and 6.1% of caseload is just splendid! Heck, these are just the tip of the iceberg, the few cases that came to the attention of CDC – most little outbreaks fly well under their radar and are not investigated. Every little ol’ hobby farmer and farm market tycoon ought to know that. Do these selfish fools have even the slightest respect for you or I, their paying customers? Apparently not.

  • Harry, I’m a professional farmer that became a food safety professional and understand the worries and fears of the small farmers very well. I started small from 4-H and FFA and that’s why we built ScoringAg as it is, focusing on helping small and not computer literate farmers everywhere in the world that they can afford at their exchange rates. Scale or size of a grower should not enter into a question of food safety for consumers anywhere.
    If you look deeper into ScoringAg you will find out that we have the only robust prevention and response system operating in all types of food, feed, meats, cheeses, and ingredients as prevention is part of the tabled records and HACCP / GAP’s are well defined . Some small farmers sell some of their goods at a farmers market on Saturday, some are processed at home or enter the food supply chain via other means like produce auctions. With real-time web-based recordkeeping and traceback, the consumer at farmer’s markets can find out, what’s locally grown, organic or conventional even on their internet cell phone.
    We found out when building the database, it will be useless, if no other system could interface. That’s why we chose UNIX and have built the only interoperable system, where any other software program can interface and enter documents. All Traceback relevant location data with GAP crop records and certification and field audits can be uploaded with a mouse click for $0.55 a year per field, no matter the size.
    We are not commenting on the fact where you describe where somebody is violating the laws.
    Do you realize, with the Tester amendment (Sen. John Tester’s Amendment to S.510, which would exclude farms and food businesses with revenues below $500,000 from the new produce standards and preventive controls in the bill.) you will open the market up for every import from foreign countries without any food safety protocols or traceback to the source. The recent peppercorn recalls show the problem very clear. I do not believe any of the farmers growing overseas all the peppercorns or any other products would break the $500,000 limit.In Testers amendment basically no one has to do anything which might exclude 90% of all growers here in the US/Canada and 99.9% worldwide. It also would be easy for big operations to divide themselves into several smaller entitles to avoid food safety requirements. Why should someone over $500,000 do food safety requirements when it is easy to get around by splitting of the company into smaller $500,000 operations. Importers buy from most farms that produce below $500,000 as you probably are well aware of and then the food safety regs. will have been defeated by Testers amendment.
    Please get more information from our ScoringAg database website as our motto is since 2004
    “With our complete web-based global system,
    we are committed to improving consumer/animal/food safety”

  • hhamil

    Unlike William Kanitz, “Doc Mudd” doesn’t merit a response because we don’t know who s/he is and never addresses points raised by people like me.
    Mr. Kanitz, I’m glad to hear you are farmer. What is the name of your farm and where is it located?
    That doesn’t alter the fact that you still haven’t responded to my critique of what you wrote.
    Now to your discussion of Tester’s amendments. Once again, you conflate the amendments. The $500,000 threshold applies only to food facilities and traceback. The exemption from Sec. 105 Standards for Produce Safety has no dollar threshold; rather it is based upon who is the customer.
    Your statements about the impact of Tester’s amendments are “red herrings.” Simply put, as everyone working full-time in agriculture knows, the FDA, USDA and state ag departments combined don’t have the resources to implement the farm standards alone in the US much less the rest of the world. Also, in her 10-22-10 testimony to the Senate HELP Committee, FDA Commissioner Hamburg said that they would rely on other governments and 3rd parties to handle imports which is what we already have. Furthermore, the cost of the HARPC plans required by Sec. 103 are so negligible for large facilities, the economies of scale of large facilities so great and the cost of dividing into small entities so high, no business person would ever be fool enough to do it. Not to mention, they didn’t get to be so large by being foolish.
    In addition, as well shown by Pete Kennedy of Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, S 510 will lead to greater imports because of the pricing advantage imports will have due to American farmers having to jump through hoops that the imports don’t.
    Finally, as you well know, Mr. Kanitz, the number of growers excluded is not what matters. What matters is the amount of food and its safety record. The 90% of farmers who are excluded don’t produce even 25% of the produce because of the consolidation of agriculture in the US.

  • Harry Hamil

    Unlike William Kanitz, “Doc Mudd” doesn’t merit a response because we don’t know who s/he is and never addresses points raised by people like me.
    Mr. Kanitz, I’m glad to hear you are farmer. What is the name of your farm and where is it located?
    That doesn’t alter the fact that you still haven’t responded to my critique of what you wrote.
    Now to your discussion of Tester’s amendments. Once again, you conflate the amendments. The $500,000 threshold applies only to food facilities and traceback. The exemption from Sec. 105 Standards for Produce Safety has no dollar threshold; rather it is based upon who is the customer.
    Your statements about the impact of Tester’s amendments are “red herrings.” Simply put, as everyone working full-time in agriculture knows, the FDA, USDA and state ag departments combined don’t have the resources to implement the farm standards alone in the US much less the rest of the world. Also, in her 10-22-10 testimony to the Senate HELP Committee, FDA Commissioner Hamburg said that they would rely on other governments and 3rd parties to handle imports which is what we already have. Furthermore, the cost of the HARPC plans required by Sec. 103 are so negligible for large facilities, the economies of scale of large facilities so great and the cost of dividing into small entities so high, no business person would ever be fool enough to do it. Not to mention, they didn’t get to be so large by being foolish.
    In addition, as well shown by Pete Kennedy of Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, S 510 will lead to greater imports because of the pricing advantage imports will have due to American farmers having to jump through hoops that the imports don’t.
    Finally, as you well know, Mr. Kanitz, the number of growers excluded is not what matters. What matters is the amount of food and its safety record. The 90% of farmers who are excluded don’t produce even 25% of the produce because of the consolidation of agriculture in the US.

  • Doc Mudd

    To your “point”, Mr. Hamil; one in four (your “25%”) of our food items should remain of uncertain safety and of dubious origin, and that will be plenty close enough for government work…if you say so, Harry. Being an insurance salesman, I suppose you should know better about these things than food safety professionals, huh? Thanks for educating and turning me & my family off to grubby overpriced farmer’s market produce. Shopping at WalMart and Piggly Wiggly will save us a pile of money this summer!!
    .
    “Welcome to WalMart”…”Thank you for shopping WalMart” with every visit. They at least pretend to give a damn about their paying customers. What a novel marketing concept!

  • Rob

    I am a small farmer (under 10,000/yr). I am also a professional educator and quite able to handle paperwork and jobs efficiently. I really am still struggling to understand this legislation and how it may effect me. But in response to the time involved in a crop-wow-that’s some crazy numbers you threw out here…

    Talking about paperwork, just how much time does it take a producer to do his records from tillage before planting – 4 minutes, planting itself – 7 minutes, per fertilizer applications – 2 minutes, spraying with bio’s or chemicals – 4 minutes, cultivation – 3 minutes, harvesting – 3 minutes, and adding a ScoringAg unique identifier traceback code by rubber stamp to his product – 3-5 seconds for traceback.

  • Doc Mudd

    Rob, do you also give the individual spinach plants personal names? How can you let people threaten to eat them after all you’ve gone through together, the spinach and you? These are virtually your children, for God’s sake! What must you charge for your salad greens? Surely you do some background checks to assure that they are going to a good home. Are there adoption papers to be signed, there at the CSA?
    .
    The more I learn here, the more I appreciate WalMart and Piggly Wiggly. Seems I’ve taken them for granted up to now.

  • Mr. Hamil, Mr. Kanitz’s farm is located in MI. He is a busy business man and does not have time to answer to your individual comments. Here is a new article from Montana State University:
    http://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20100507/DC5/5070318
    You may want to argue with them. Recordkeeping in ScoringAg takes exact the time as described by Mr. Kanitz. If somebody does not believe it, just sign in for $10 and try it out. The size of farm you may own wouldn’t cost more for a whole year recordkeeping anyway.
    As you don’t need recordkeeping and traceback how to you trace the latest lettuce e-coli outbreak back, an event that sickens people for weeks. Do you believe all the sick students in the campuses can shop for their food at a farmers market or drive in their car to your facility and buy the lettuce? How many people can you feed with what you are growing year-round? Give me a break! And BTW as you don’t have records, how can you prove the stuff you are selling is from your farm and not bought on the way to the farmers market at Sam’s Club? To you expect us consumer just to believe we pay the high price for organic and actually is conventional raised. Do you have records to prove what you put on the crops you sell? Can you change the records as needed?
    Their must be a good reason why you are arguing so against any recordkeeping, traceback and farm sanitation protocols. Makes me wonder why!

  • Rawchi

    Rob, Thank you for all you do! Thank you and the other small farmers who bring us fresh food that hasn’t been sitting around in a supermarket for days, who pay legal workers decent wages, who take care for the health of their customers and their world!