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Food Safety Modernization Act—friend or foe?

S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. may be “the most dangerous bill in the history of the United States” for small-food producers, if you’ve checked out what bloggers are saying about the Senate’s version of the food safety bill passed by the House nearly a year ago.

Among the bill’s transgressions:
“S. 510 industrializes the U.S. food chain and damages independent and organic farmers, community gardens and markets.”

“It would allow the government, under Maritime Law, to define the introduction of any food into commerce (even direct sales between individuals) as smuggling into the United States.”

“I don’t care whether you’re a full blown organic farmer or have a backyard herb garden, Republican or Democrat, the American people need to unite against this evil bill … which will make it illegal to grow your own food.”

What’s worse, news came this week that S. 510 may actually pass (gasp), albeit with a few provisions that have garnered the bill bipartisan support. According to summaries from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Food Safety News, several amendments now aim to ease the regulatory burden on small-scale farms and food facilities including:

  • A reduction of unnecessary paperwork and excess regulation for small producers

  • Farms engaged in low or no-risk processing or co-mingling activities may be exempt from new regulatory requirements, or the FDA may modify particular regulatory requirements for such farming operations

  • USDA-delivered competitive grants for food safety training for farmers, small processors and wholesalers

  • A traceability and recordkeeping section that will exempt food that is direct marketed from farmers to consumers or to grocery stores and exempt food that has labeling that preserves the identity of the farm that produced the food

But are such moves enough?

Still missing from the bill is a critical “Tester” amendment supported by the NSAC which "would exempt certain food facilities with under $500,000 in gross annual sales from preventative control plan requirements and exempt direct-market farmers from the coming produce safety regulations."

If the amendment is added, NSAC will support the bill, without it ... ?

Where do you stand?

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