NICFA's national lobby day, Farm Food Voices DC
, on March 10th was a huge success. Folks from around the country as far away as Montana met with their Senators and Representatives' staff about the problems with S 510 and what to do. In addition, 17 independent restaurants and caterers, including several nationally renowned chefs, and more than 50 independent farms and producers who contributed their lovingly raised and artisanal products, cooperated to prepare a spectacular local foods feast
reception for legislators, staff, and grassroots lobbyists. A direct result of our action has been coverage about the problems with this bill by the Wall Street Journal
, Fox Business TV
, and MarketWatch
among other media. Now let's build on what we accomplished March 10th.
Senator Jon Tester of Montana, who attended our reception, has written two amendments for S 510 to address small farm and facility issues. We thank Senator Tester for his efforts to improve the bill. However, S 510 would still create serious unintended consequences for farmers and consumers, and this bill should be opposed.
S-510 will have the unintended destructive consequence of eliminating small farms and consumer access to local food. The main threats to food safety - by the government's own admission - are centralized production, centralized processing and long distance transportation. S-510 will increase these risks by further consolidating agriculture into fewer, larger industrial farms through enormous regulatory burdens that small farms cannot endure. Small farms and farmers markets are an important economic engine, environmental safeguard and national security asset. There is not a history of foodborne illness from farmers' markets or small farms.
a) The FDA already has jurisdiction over live food animals, but S510 expands the FDA's powers and authority. In addition to adding new regulations, agents could go on to farms, where less than one half of one percent of foodborne illnesses originate, without needing credible evidence that a problem exists, only "reason to believe" in order to quarantine or shut down a farm. S-510 strikes the words "credible evidence" and inserts "reason to believe." "Reason to believe" is inserted into the code 14 times with this bill. This is unscientific and lets them use subjective criteria for taking legal action.
b) TITLE II Sec. 208: strikes ''presents a threat of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals'' and inserts ''is adulterated or misbranded'' meaning that if an agent "believed" that raw milk, for instance, to be an adulterated food, the agent could shut down a farm that provides raw milk to consumers. The farmer would have no legal recourse from such action.
a) The U.S. has already implemented several disastrous international standards, including "Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points" (HACCP) and "The Leafy Green Marketing Order."
i) HACCP has not increased food safety, but has resulted in the closure of slaughterhouses that could not afford it and that serviced small farmers in direct trade, thus increasing farmers' costs for travel to distant abattoirs and decreasing their ability to stay in business. S510 will allow plans like HACCP - a 50-page book of rules - to be required on farms.
ii) The International Plant Protection Convention's (IPPC's) "Pest Free" standard, known as "The Leafy Green Marketing Order" was written by industrial distributors (WalMart, Disney and McDonalds) and has resulted in no increase in food safety but has caused gross financial burdens on small farms. E.g., in the Growers' Compliance Costs for the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) and Other Food Safety Programs survey conducted in 2008 and 2009 by the University of California, one of their many findings stated, "Growers reported their seasonal food safety costs more than doubled after the implementation of the LGMA, increasing from a mean of $24.04 per acre in 2006 to $54.63 per acre in 2007."