• 22Nov

    Food Safety Update: Final Senate Action Set for Right After Thanksgiving

    From The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)

    Late Wednesday, November 17, a deal was reached on a revised version of the Tester-Hagan small farm amendment to S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act.  The revised amendment, which NSAC helped broker, was then placed into a revised version of the Manager’s amendment to the bill.  On Thursday, the Senate approved a motion to proceed to consideration of the bill by a vote of 57-27.

    However, action on the food safety bill remains stalled in Senate, in part because Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) want to offer non-germane amendments dealing with a ban on congressional earmarks until 2013 and repeal of a tax-related section of the health care act, respectively. A time agreement was reached by the Senate leadership late Thursday night.  It provides for two more cloture votes to take place on November 29, immediately following the Thanksgiving week congressional recess, one to shut down debate on the Manager’s amendment and a second to shut down debate on the bill.

    Also see the Huffington Post article: Senate Reaches Agreement On Food Safety Bill To Exempt Small Farms.

  • 25Oct

    FROM NSAC

    10/22/10 Vilsack Responds to Letter from Representatives on GIPSA Rule: On October 1, 115 House members submitted a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting additional economic analysis of the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule.  Earlier this week, Vilsack responded to the representatives, assuring them that the regular process of rulemaking would take place and all the rulemaking requirements are being met, but telling them not to expect anything beyond that. To read Vilsack’s response letter to the Representatives, click here.

    10/22/10 USDA Reaffirms Biofuels Pledge, Announces Subsidies for Advanced Biofuels: Yesterday, October 21, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a series of measures to expand and develop infrastructure and incentives for the production of advanced biofuels, which include non-corn kernel cellulosic feedstocks including switchgrass, corn stalks, and woody perennials, biofuels derived from waste materials, and other non-food biofuel sources. The new Renewable Fuel Standard rules finalized by the EPA earlier this year call for increasing biofuels production substantially over the next 12 years, with a target of 36 billion gallons of biofuels produced annually by 2022, including 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels.  In his speech, Vilsack announced the resumption of financial assistance payments to biofuel producers through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), the creation of five new regional Biomass Research Centers, and the construction of infrastructure to support the increasing supply of biofuels, including new biorefineries, blender pumps, and storage systems.

    10/19/10 New Publication on Farm Bill Programs and Habitat Conservation: NSAC is pleased to announce the release of a new publication - Conserving Habitat through the Federal Farm Bill: A Guide for Land Trusts and Landowners. A group of six organizations came together to contribute to this comprehensive and practical guide for farmers, ranchers, land trusts and other landowners who want to increase wildlife habitat on their land. The guide is available as a pdf document which can be accessed and downloaded from the NSAC website by clicking here.  If you are interested in bulk printed copies, please contact the NSAC office.

    10/20/10 Consumer Groups Get it Wrong on Tester: Today, October 20, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition responded critically to a letter and analysis sent to the United States Senate by a coalition of 9 national consumer organizations opposing an amendment to be offered by Senators Jon Tester and Kay Hagan to S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act. “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.  “Our strong hope is once they look at the actual details of the amendment they will change their position.  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.”

    10/20/10 “Why Pollinators Matter” Conference Bee-gins: Today, October 20, the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) kicked off its three-day 10th Annual International Conference, “Pollinators and North American Priorities: Why Pollinators Matter: Benefits, Challenges, and Outcomes,” at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C.  NAPPC, which is administered by the Pollinator Partnership (P2), is a collaborative group of over 120 organizations and individuals that work to promote and implement a continent-wide action plan to protect the numbers and health of all pollinating animals. The conference program highlighted the economic and environmental value of pollinating animals as well as the many challenges they face, from the much-publicized colony collapse disorder in honeybees to broader threats including habitat loss and competition from non-native species.

  • 21Sep

    Sen. Coburn Threatens to Hold Food Safety Bill (Food Safety News) by Helena Bottemiller

    Excerpt: ”Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) says he will hold up the pending food safety bill unless Democrats find a way to pay for the measure. With time running out in the Senate, advocates had hoped that the recent egg recall would provide the impetus to finally move the legislation, which has been stalled for more than a year, to the floor. Coburn’s threat, however, is a serious problem for the bill.”  To read the full article click HERE

    Three projects that are watering Detroit’s ‘food desert’ (Grist) by Tom Philpott

    Excerpt: “…food has emerged as the key motivating force of Detroiters’ efforts to re-imagine their town as a thriving, livable place. I was struck by the cooperation on display — the way new-wave restaurateurs, market farmers, food-justice activists, and nonprofit advocates work together toward the goal of a healthy, inclusive food system where a food desert once stood. And while plenty of work remains to be done before that vision can be achieved, my week in Detroit left me with little doubt that it would be.”  To read the full article click HERE

    Forget Oil, Worry About Phosphorus (The Daily Yonder) By C. Robert Taylor

    Excerpt: “Modern farming methods depend increasingly on fossil fuels and major plant nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. We know that peak oil is fast approaching, if it has not already arrived. This isn’t the only shortage that should concern us. We are seeing the same coming shortages in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.” To read the full article click HERE

    Signs of a reverse brain drain, from finance to farms (Grist) by Tom Laskawy

    Excerpt: “Jurrien Swarts, a partner in Holton Farms… has structured… a kind of farm charge account — and even gave it a “premium” name: CSA Select. In his version, CSA members aren’t getting a pre-selected box of produce. Instead, they spend down their “balance” by ordering á la carte week by week from a selection of products from Holton and its 10 other farm and business partners.”  To read the full article click HERE

  • 26Aug

    Why it matters that the FDA is beating USDA for control of food system (Grist)

    by David Gumpert

    Excerpt: “Small-scale food producers and farmers have been vocal about their concerns that the Senate will pass highly burdensome food-safety legislation.

    Equally worried, but much less vocal, is the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It frets over major gains by its arch-rival, the U.S. food and Drug Administration, over local food producers and small farms. USDA is so worried it has even had its Senate allies include language that “prohibited the FDA from ‘impeding, minimizing, or affecting’ USDA authority on meat, poultry, and eggs,” according to Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety.”

    To read the full article Click HERE

  • 16Apr

    From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC):
    The food safety bill (S 510) was supposed to go to the full Senate next week, but we were told today that the timing is being pushed back a week or two because the Senate will instead be debating finance reform.  The following is the food safety update that NSAC put out yesterday about the status of the manager’s amendment as it stands now: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/senate-food-safety-bill-includes-improvements-for-farmers/

  • 09Mar

    PRESS RELEASE

    CONTACT:  Deborah Stockton 434.295.7176 Email: nicfa@earthlink.net
    Congress Gets Fed a New Taste of Food Safety

    March 8, 2010–Washington DCThe National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (NICFA), along with a host of area restaurants and caterers who source food from local farmers, plans a buffet reception for federal legislators on March 10, 4:00 – 6:30pm Room SD-106, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington DC.  Citing potential destruction of small farms as the unintended consequence of proposed federal food safety bills, the national advocacy group is bringing to Congress its message that small farms produce the safest food.

    The buffet will cap off the fourth annual Farm Food Voices lobby day (10:00am-3:00pm). This year, Main Event Caterers is coordinating food from a number of fine dining restaurants around the metro area, including Nora’s, Sonoma, Woodberry Kitchen, Poste Brasserie, Restaurant 3, Alchemy Caterers, Coppi’s Organic, Lavender Moon Cupcakery, Suburban Trading Company and Food Matters. The lavish buffet will be served up to Senators, Congressmen and their staffs, with a request to spare small farms more legal hurdles.

    “Small farms produce the safest food available, without regulation. Small farms are also  increasing at about 13,000 a year, according to the USDA,” says Deborah Stockton, Executive Director of NICFA.  “The current Administration that wants to ‘rebuild’ rural America, is pushing food bills that will do the opposite.  Just like family farms brought us out of the Great Depression, they can bring us out of the food safety problem and this recession, if they are allowed to thrive.”

    NICFA asserts that federal agencies do not enforce measures already on the books to ensure food safety in the industrial food system.

    “Do we really want to give sweeping new powers to agencies that do not do their jobs?” asks Stockton.  “The main threats to food safety – by the government’s own admission – are centralized production, centralized processing and long distance transportation. The food safety bills will actually increase these risk factors by consolidating agriculture into fewer, larger industrial farms  through enormous regulatory burdens that small farms cannot endure.  There is not a history of food borne illness from farmers’ markets.”

    Mrs. West Virginia International is also making a lobby day appearance at her representatives offices and the buffet. Beauty Queen, Mrs. Alexandra Booth will vie for the title of Mrs. America International with Local Food as her platform.

    Advocates for the bills claim that exemptions in the bills will protect small farms. Consumers and farmers from around the country however, contend that the exemptions are insufficient and questionable, and they will ask legislators to reconsider these bills. For more information on the Capitol Hill local-foods reception see http://www.nicfa.com

  • 01Feb

    Article: The Incredible Shrinking Local Market

    By Annette Higby, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. For more information on the Food Safety issue from NSAC Visit: http://sustainableagriculture.net/category/food-safety/

    While we all cheer this Administration’s emerging emphasis on local and regional food production, let’s not forget that the Food Safety Modernization Act (S 510) now on its way to the Senate floor could erect a formidable barrier to those markets for many small and moderate sized farms.

    The Act would considerably ramp up FDA regulation on farms that even minimally process their crops and sell them to restaurants, food coops, groceries, schools or to wholesale markets.  The new regulatory burdens would include recordkeeping for traceability, developing and implementing expensive food safety plans, regular on-farm FDA inspections, and, if the House has its way, hefty annual inspection fees.

    This legislation casts a shadow over a broad swath of family farm value-added production and on farm processing.  Many farmers unable to bear the costs of compliance will be shut out of these important new markets.   By failing to focus FDA regulation on processing activities that present the most risk for food borne pathogen contamination, this bill could needlessly throttle an increasingly important engine for rural economic development and rural revitalization.   In its zeal to protect consumer health, Congress could instead stifle a healthy shift in diet to more fresh and local foods.

    One of the best ideas for improving this legislation has been introduced by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).   The Stabenow Amendment is called the Growing Safe Food Act (S. 2758) and it would create a national food safety training and technical assistance program.   This competitive grants program would deliver training and technical assistance appropriate to sustainable and organic farmers and small food processors to reduce the incidence of food borne illness.   If you value safe, local, and healthy food, please call your Senators and encourage them to co-sponsor the Growing Safe Food Act.

    NSAC has already won a number of key changes to this legislation and we will continue to push for improvements.   We can’t let rules designed to address serious food safety deficiencies in our industrial food system shut down the move toward healthy, natural and local food.

    The Food Safety Modernization Act could be brought to the Senate floor on a moment’s notice – this month or later this year. 

    Be prepared.  Sign up for the NSAC action alert list!

  • 15Jan

    The following represents my personal opinion regarding the issue of food safety legislation and the many factors which surround it, and should be considered editorial. I have been following the debate closely, and though my opinions are not uninformed, I will also freely admit that I don’t know everything. I work very hard to present information on beginningfarmers.org in an impartial way, and seek to avoid ideological bias, but this particular issue is a hot button for almost everyone, including me. I simply ask that if readers take issue with what I say here, that they post their own ideas, so that everyone has the benefit of hearing dissenting views.

    A lot of emotion currently surrounds the issue of food safety legislation for farmers, food processors, activists, and the general public alike. My take on the issue, at least the short version, is as follows:

    The U.S. food supply is generally fairly safe. There are a lot more dangerous things than eating which most of us do every day. But there are also some bad actors in the food production and processing sectors who are greedy and sloppy, and though there are sometimes unpredictable factors which can lead to food contamination, most of the problems we have seen over the past few years were preventable. Although outbreaks of food-borne illness have often been blamed on small and organic producers, my own readings, and my understanding of pathology and bacterial epidemiology (which I studied in graduate school) lead me to believe that food contamination problems are far more likely to be caused by large industrial processors cutting corners, and confinement feeding operations which squeeze too many animals together in too small a space (for more information on this issue see http://www.ncifap.org/, http://snipurl.com/tzub8, and http://snipurl.com/tzudx).

    Whether or not one believes that new food safety regulations are necessary, the hysteria that is caused by food contamination outbreaks, fed by our obsession with fear-based cable and network news programming has produced a situation in which legislators feel they have no choice but to act. The political reality is that our elected officials are going to go through with some kind of legislation because average people are worked up and fed up with outbreaks of food-borne illness. They also tend to be poorly educated about the realities of the food system, and are either unwilling, or incapable of avoiding the kinds of industrial food products which tend to cause these problems in the first place.

    Legislators are not only listening, they see ‘improving food safety’ as an overwhelmingly beneficial political position to take. Dealing with the core issues in our food system: (industrialization, confinement, demand for cheap food, the feeding of animal products and grains to ruminants, the overuse of antibiotics, etc.) are such big systemic issues protected by such powerful lobbies, that the only way the issue of food safety is ever really going to be tackled in the short term is through more government oversight and bureaucracy.

    I recognize that to many small independent farmers and processors, the specter of more invasive government regulation and oversight stinks worse than the excrement lagoons of our nation’s largest hog and dairy operations in August. But at this point, food safety legislation looks like an inevitability. The only question is what it will look like.

    Obviously my own sympathies are with the small farmers and processors, and I fear that their burden will be far heavier (in relative terms) than that of the industrial producers and processors from whom I have suggested that the bulk of the problems originate. At the same time there has also been a fair amount of disinformation and doomsday prophesying spreading through the grapevine and across the internet.

    Like the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) which I don’t have time to address here, Food Safety Legislation may well put an unfair burden and additional government oversight on those (small producers) who can least afford it and who, as I have suggested, are least responsible for the problems. But the gravest of the concerns I have heard will are simply fallacies (food safety legislation will not make organic farming or home gardening illegal).

    A number of small but capable grassroots organizations and conscientious individuals have been working hard to make lawmakers understand the disproportional burden that increased oversight could put on the small farmers and processors who are seldom the source of the problems that the new laws seek to ameliorate. Along with the public outcry over the issue (sometimes worst-case scenario fears, even if they are overblown, have been useful catalysts for populist political action), these organizations have been successful in prompting a number of legislators to put forth provisions protecting small and organic producers and processors.

    But the bottom line is that we still don’t know what the final outcome will be. Chances are, small farmers and processors won’t come out unscathed. But I am hopeful that with continued diligence and political engagement, the damage will at least be limited.

    The Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) has put together one of the better overviews of the issues surrounding current efforts to enact national food safety legislation, including information on how to make your opinions heard. I have included it below.

    Please send comments and other sources of information, dissenting opinions, rants, or complaints using either the comment tab above, or the contact form below, and I will be happy to post them.

    - Taylor Reid

    From CFSC (http://www.foodsecurity.org/policy.html#foodsafety):

    HR 2749

    H.R. 2749, The Food Safety Enhancement Act, passed the House on July 30, 2009. The House Agriculture Committee was able to negotiate some changes to the bill on behalf of Ag and Farmers, but many advocates do not feel that these changes are enough. It is unclear when the Senate will take up the issue of Food Safety (S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act), but it is unlikely to happen before the passage of Health Reform.

    Below are some of the latest updates and news surrounding the Food Safety Issue:

    CFSC will send out an Action Alert asking for your help. Sign up for our Policy Updates to receive action alerts.

    For More Information on Food Safety Legislation you can visit the following organizations working on this issue:

    HR 875

    There are a lot of rumors floating around about HR 875, a food safety bill introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). Rep. DeLauro is a great friend of our issues, and despite rumors, her husband never worked for Monsanto. For the real truth on HR 875, download the Myths & Facts of HR 875 (below), or read this helpful post at Ethicurean.com.
    Myths & Facts of HR 875, the Food Safety Modernization Act [PDF]

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  • 28Nov

    From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

    Senate HELP Approves Food Safety Act: On Wednesday, November 18, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously approved a revised version of S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act.  Senate floor action is considered likely early next calendar year, though no one is entirely ruling out floor action yet in December.  The House has already passed its companion bill, so once the full Senate takes action the House and Senate will conference to work out the wide ranging differences between the two bills.

    A bipartisan, modified version of S. 510 was presented to the Committee early last week by Chairman Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Enzi (R-WY), after having been negotiated under the auspices of Senators Dodd (D-CT) and Gregg (R-NH).  The newly revised version includes several key planks from the NSAC position paper and legislative proposal: Read more »

  • 17Nov

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    November 16, 2009

    Merkley: FDA Food Safety Modernization Act Protects Families and Assists Farmers

    Food Safety Package Includes Merkley’s Provisions to Strengthen Food Safety Protections and Preserve Organic Farming and Sustainable Agriculture Industries


    Washington, D.C.
    –Today the Senate took another step closer to passing legislation that will give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the resources it needs to ensure the safety of our nation’s food supply.  The Senate Agriculture Committee released the chairman’s draft of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which includes Merkley’s provisions to improve traceability of contaminated processed foods and protect the organic farming and sustainable agriculture industries. Read more »

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