Take Action on Food Safety Legislation to Protect Small, Organic, and Sustainable Farmers

November 12, 2009

Tell the Senator HELP Committee: Food Safety Bill Must Protect Sustainable and Organic Family Farms

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee will take up the Senate’s version of major food safety legislation (S. 510) on Wednesday, November 18th, 2009. While this bill would strengthen the safety of the food supply, it also contains several provisions that could seriously harm small scale and organic farmers, local and regional food systems, and conservation and wildlife habitat. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and the National Organic Coalition (NOC) have put forth a set of proposed amendments to address some of these concerns. Your Senators may sit on the Senate HELP Committee. Please contact them TODAY and ask them to support the amendments to S. 510 proposed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Organic Coalition. Specific talking points and Senate HELP Committee members and their contact info are below.

Specific Talking Points
  • The bill should provide small and mid-sized family farms that market value-added farm products with training and technical assistance in developing food safety plans for their farms.
  • The bill should narrow the kinds of farm activities subject to FDA control and to base any regulation of farms on sound risk analysis. (Current FDA rules assume, without specific scientific evidence or risk analysis, that all farms which undertake any one of a long list of processing, labeling or packaging activities should be regulated.)
  • The bill should integrate the FDA standards with the organic certification rules. FDA compliance should not jeopardize a farmer’s ability to be organically certified under USDA’s National Organic Program.
  • The bill should require that FDA food safety standards and guidance will not contradict federal conservation, environmental, and wildlife standards and practices. Farmer should not have to choose which federal agency to obey and which to reject.
  • Farmers who sell directly to consumers should not be required to keep extra records and be part of a federal “traceback” system. All other farms should not be required to maintain records electronically or records beyond the first point of sale.
Senate HELP Committee Contact Info Senator                                  Phone                         Fax Democrats Tom Harkin (IA)                 202-224-3254          No fax Chris Dodd (CT)                 202-224-2823          202-224-1083 Barbara Mikulski (MD)         202-224-4654          202-224-8858 Jeff Bingaman (NM)            202-224-5521          No fax Patty Murray (WA)             202-224-2621          202-224-0238 Jack Reed (RI)                            202-224-4642          202-224-4680 Bernie Sanders (VT)           202-224-5141          202-228-0776 Sherrod Brown (OH)           202-224-2315          202-228-6321 Bob Casey (PA)                  202-224-6324          202-228-0604 Kay Hagan (NC)                 202-224-6342          202-228-2563 Jeff Merkley (OR)               202-224-3753          202-228-3997 Al Franken (MN)                 202-224-5641           No fax Michael Bennet (CO)           202-224-5852           202-228-5036 Senator                                  Phone                         Fax Republicans Mike Enzi (WY)                   202-224-3424          202-228-0359 Judd Gregg (NH)                202-224-3324          No fax Lamar Alexander (TN)         202-224-4944          202-228-3398 Richard Burr (NC)               202-224-3154          202-228-2981 Johnny Isakson (GA)           202-224-3643          202-228-0724 Orrin Hatch (UT)                 202-224-5251          202-224-6331 Pat Roberts (KS)                202-224-4774          202-224-3514 Tom Coburn (OK)               202-224-5754          202-224-6008 Lisa Murkowski (AK)           202-224-6665          202-224-5301 Let the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) know if you contact your Senators. Email Tracy Lerman, OFRF Policy Organizer at tracy@ofrf.org. Background The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will mark up S. 510, the Senate version of major food safety legislation next Wednesday, November 18. The House of Representatives passed similar legislation, HR 2749, last July. Both bills focus on foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, not meat and poultry which is regulated by USDA. S. 510 includes several key reforms that would put real teeth into federal regulation of large-scale food processing corporations to better protect consumers. However, the bill as written could also do serious harm to organic and family farming, local and regional food systems, and conservation and wildlife protection. The good news is the HELP committee can fix those problems with the adoption of some common sense provisions. The proposed amendments from NSAC and NOC would retain the crack-down on corporate bad actors without erecting dangerous new barriers to the growing healthy food movement. Safer food systems have small and mid-sized family farms, sustainable and organic production methods, and more local and regional food sourcing. More Information NSAC's talking points on S. 510 NSAC’s Policy Brief Food Safety on the Farm OFAN Policy Alert for the House of Representatives’ Food Safety Bill, HR 2749, which passed the House last July

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