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.