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.”
The 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
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.