Latest on the Senate Food Safety Bill Markup

From: the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)

For Immediate Release

November 18, 2009

NSAC Comment on Senate Food Safety Markup

Washington, DC, November 18, 2009 — Sustainable and organic farming groups are pleased the new version of the food safety bill passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee this morning responds to the issues they have been raising with respect to farm scale, crop diversity, conservation and organic concerns in the fruit and vegetable standards section of the bill.  This is an important step in the right direction.  The bill as a whole, however, still has a fundamental flaw and a serious oversight with respect to its farm provisions.

The chief flaw relates to the very basic issue of how many farms are presumed to be regulated under the terms of the bill, at what cost, and with what incremental gain to food safety, if any.  “The Food and Drug Administration believes that tens of thousands of farms are affected by the bill’s provisions,” said Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.  “We have good reason to believe it is hundreds of thousands, with more to come as farmers respond to consumer demand for high quality, value-added local and regional food.”  The real answer, though, is no one yet knows.  “It behooves the Senate to get an answer to this very basic question before finishing the legislative process and before inadvertently sticking farmers with high costs to comply with regulations for activities that may have little or no bearing on the safety of the food they produce,” said Hoefner.

The chief omission of the bill reported today is its failure to include a training and technical assistance program to assist small farms and small processors with the development and implementation of food safety plans.  Senator Stabenow, together with HELP Committee Members Bingaman, Sanders, Brown, Casey, and Merkley, as well as Senators Leahy, Boxer, and Gillibrand, have introduced the Growing Safe Food Act to provide for this important program.  “Unfortunately the training program was not incorporated into the Committee bill today,” said Hoefner, “but we will continue to push for its inclusion as the bill moves to the Senate floor.  We believe its inclusion and implementation will do more to improve on-farm food safety than anything currently in the bill.”

On Monday, NSAC joined with 70 national, regional and state farm and food organizations in urging the HELP Committee to take these issues into consideration.  A copy of that letter can be found at http://sustainableagriculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/Letter-to-HELP-on-S-510-11-16-092.pdf

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural and urban food systems and communities.

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