Washington, DC – You may recall back in 2010 we worked to stop passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The bill was an effort by Congress to appease angry consumers fed up with a spate of incidents of food contamination (like that year’s salmonella outbreak and recall of eggs) resulting from the unhealthy livestock farming practices of industrial suppliers.
We were concerned that the bill would apply the regulations explicitly crafted to regulate large industrial facilities (factory farms and industrial agriculture and manufacturers) to small businesses as well (family farmers, organic growers, farmer’s markets, food artisans and local suppliers). The financial impact of complying with the burdensome reporting requirements could have put such small suppliers out of business.
That’s why we fought so hard for the Tester-Hagan amendment. It authorized more modest reporting requirements for small providers and exempted them from the extensive ones required of larger companies. This exemption is essential to the continued vitality of the local foods movement.
Now the FDA is proposing rules that make it very easy for the agency to force even small-scale farmers to comply with the extensive, burdensome FSMA regulations, and all but impossible for such farmers to protect themselves.
Under the proposed rules, if the FDA decides to revoke the Tester-Hagan exemption and force a small-scale, direct-marketing farmer to comply with the new federal requirements:
- The farmer gets only 10 days to submit a written appeal;
- The FDA does not have to grant the farmer a hearing;
- The agency is not held to any specific standard for what evidence must be shown to justify the revocation;
- The farmer must comply with all FSMA regulations within 60 days, which would be impossible for many small farms; and
- There is no way to get the exemption back.
In practical terms, under the agency’s proposed rules, the FDA will be able to target small farms one-by-one and put them out of business, with little to no recourse for the farmers.
The same issues apply to small-scale food processors. Under the FDA’s definition, “processors” include people who make dried fruits, pickles, breads, or any other food that is processed in any way, including farmers who are making value-added products.
The FDA is accepting public comments before it finalizes the proposed rules. Use the links below and please submit a comment telling the FDA to respect the Tester-Hagan exemption and ensure due process for small-scale farmers and food producers.
For a sample comment, instructions on how to submit your comments, and for more information, see: Sample Comments and Instructions.
There are two proposed rules: one for farmers raising produce; the other for “facilities” where food is processed (which may include, for example, farmers who are canning their products). Please comment on BOTH proposed rules — you can use the same comment, you simply have to go through the process twice.
Here’s where you submit comments to the FDA online:
ADDRESS FOR MAILING COMMENTS:Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305) Food and Drug Administration 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061 Rockville, MD 20852
Include the docket numbers in your comments:
- Produce Rule is FDA-2011-N-0921
- Facilities Rule is FDA-2011-N-0920