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NSAC Defends Small Farm Food Safety Exemptions

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has pushed back against an effort to modify a food safety amendment that aims to lessen the regulatory impact on small-scale farms and food facilities.

Tuesday, the Make Our Food Safe campaign emailed Senate offices soliciting support for the food safety bill, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to bring to the floor in November.  The group also expressed opposition to the current version of an amendment sponsored by Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Kay Hagan (D-NC).

“[O]ur organizations oppose the current draft of the Tester amendment and are deeply concerned about its impact on the safety of the food supply,” read the email, signed by the American Public Health Association, Consumers Union, and The Pew Charitable Trusts, among others. “Certain provisions of the amendment must be changed so that it does not weaken current law and exempt large amounts of food–including high-risk foods–from FDA regulation.”

Though the Tester amendment is not part of the managers package, NSAC and other sustainable agriculture groups are fighting hard to have the amendment added to the bill on the floor of the Senate during lame duck.

“On the basis of a surprisingly inaccurate analysis of what the Tester-Hagan amendment proposes to do, the organizations behind the letter to Senators reach a conclusion in opposition to the amendment,” said Ferd Hoefner, NSAC’s policy director, in a lengthy statement released Wednesday.

“Our strong hope is once they look at the actual details of the amendment they will change their position,” said Hoefner.  “The sooner they remove this damaging new roadblock to passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act in the short time left in this session of Congress the better.”

According to NSAC, the Tester amendment would “improve food safety outcomes by creating size-appropriate alternatives to the requirements in the underlying bill for ‘preventative control plans’ for very small processing facilities of all types.”  The amendment would also require “size-appropriate alternatives” for those with less than $500,000 in annual sales that primarily direct market their products to consumers, stores, or restaurants and do so within state boundaries or within 400 miles of the farm or processing facility.

“All farmers should have food safety plans based on the particulars of their situation,” said Hoefner.  “However, it is critical that as we ramp up food safety protections we do not inadvertently create economic havoc for our family farmers or shut down new investments in local and regional food systems that are vital to economic recovery, public health, and nutritional wellbeing.”

“The alternative ‘one size fits all’ approach is impractical, wastes scarce federal resources, and does not improve food safety outcomes,” according to Hoefner.

If the Tester amendment is included, NSAC will support the final passage of the Senate bill, but the group, and the wider sustainable agriculture community, remain vehemently opposed to the more wide-reaching House version.

NSAC offered a point by point rebuttal to the Make Our Food Safe email, the full version is available here.  Also see Consumer Coalition Question Small-Farm Exemptions and the Make Our Food Safe memo on the coalition’s concerns.

© Food Safety News
  • Once again, it is great that NSAC is now openly supporting Tester-Hagan but it is important to remember that NSAC doesn’t speak for all of the sustainable agriculture movement much less the local, healthy food movement. NSAC is only following the lead a much larger coalition (over 157 local, regional & national grassroots organizations) led by Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA), the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) and, one of NSAC’s participating members, Carolina Farm Stewardship Assn. (CFSA). The “Food Safety News” coverage of this will be incomplete until all 3 of these groups’ comments are published.
    Also, in considering the merits of the version of the Tester-Hagan amendments tailored to fit the S 510 bill managers’ amendment, it is important to remember that Food and Water Watch (FWW)–an original member of the Make Our Food Safe Coalition (MOFS)–broke with MOFS over Tester-Hagan. On 9-10-10, “Food Safety News” reported this story under the headline, “Group Breaks Ranks on Small Farm Exemptions” (http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/09/group-breaks-ranks-on-small-farm-exemptions/).
    FWW’s overall analysis of the both HR 2749 and S 510 is at http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/food/foodsafety/. FWW supports the version of S 510 that includes Tester-Hagan AND more required inspections.

  • Steve Gilman

    In reply to Harry Hamil’s comments — For the record, the Tester/Hagan Amendment has evolved considerably since it was first proposed and backed by the coalition groups Harry refers to.
    As further negotiated with NSAC guidance, Tester now enjoys support from the HELP Committee that had already put together the S.510 Manager’s Package that includes the following farmer-friendly amendments promulgated by the NSAC-led national Food Safety Task Force:
    — Sanders (D-VT) amendment (requiring FDA to write regulations to determine low risk on-farm processing activities that can be exempt from regulatory requirement);
    –Bennet (D-CO) amendment (to reduce unnecessary paperwork and streamline requirements for farmers and small processors);
    –Stabenow (D-MI) amendment (to create a USDA-delivered competitive grants program for food safety training);
    –Boxer (D-CA) amendment (to eliminate anti-wildlife habitat language from the bill); and
    –Brown (D-OH) amendment (on traceability requirements, including exemptions for direct marketed and farm identity-preserved marketing).
    Ironically, it was Mr Hamil’s et al resistance to supporting the S.510 Manager’s Package process which has left Tester on the outside the bill — as a floor amendment, where it can more easily get shot down. Although the NSAC Task Force is still attempting to get Tester into the Managers Package it may be too late for that to happen. The NSAC Task Force continues its full support of the Tester-Hagan Amendment.

  • Once again, it is great that NSAC is now openly supporting Tester-Hagan but it is important to remember that NSAC doesn’t speak for all of the sustainable agriculture movement much less the local, healthy food movement. NSAC is only following the lead a much larger coalition (over 157 local, regional & national grassroots organizations) led by Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA), the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) and, one of NSAC’s participating members, Carolina Farm Stewardship Assn. (CFSA). The “Food Safety News” coverage of this will be incomplete until all 3 of these groups’ comments are published.
    Also, in considering the merits of the version of the Tester-Hagan amendments tailored to fit the S 510 bill managers’ amendment, it is important to remember that Food and Water Watch (FWW)–an original member of the Make Our Food Safe Coalition (MOFS)–broke with MOFS over Tester-Hagan. On 9-10-10, “Food Safety News” reported this story under the headline, “Group Breaks Ranks on Small Farm Exemptions” (http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/09/group-breaks-ranks-on-small-farm-exemptions/).
    FWW’s overall analysis of the both HR 2749 and S 510 is at http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/food/foodsafety/. FWW supports the version of S 510 that includes Tester-Hagan AND more required inspections.

  • Contrary to the consumer groups’ claims, the amendment would not “weaken current law.” The Tester-Hagan amendment prevents the imposition of certain NEW federal regulations onto qualifying producers. The amendment uses a multi-prong approach that, when applied as a whole, limits its applicability to small-scale, local producers.
    Notably, no one has presented any evidence that producers who would fall within the Tester-Hagan amendment have been the source of significant foodborne illness outbreaks. There is simply no basis to impose extensive new federal regulation on these producers.
    Our coalition has been seeking amendments to the food safety bills since 2009 and have supported the Tester-Hagan amendment since it was first introduced in April of this year. We would have been happy — and still would be happy — to have the Tester-Hagan amendment included in the Managers Package.
    Our latest fact sheet on S.510 and the Tester-Hagan amendment is posted at http://farmandranchfreedom.org/Food-safety-FAQs