Last month, Care2 suggested that people who like getting food from small, local farms had a strong interest in speaking up about the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). That’s because many small farmers were worried that the law could put them out of business.
FSMA was enacted by Congress in 2010. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the law “aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.” Clearly this is a goal that we can all get behind, and we applaud the notion of FSMA being able to help prevent the outbreaks of food-borne illnesses that are becoming more frequent.
However, these new FDA rules could have driven some farms out of business because those with less than $500,000 in sales, who sell mostly to commercial customers, would have to pay four to six percent of their gross revenue to comply with the new regulations.
The public had until November 15 to submit their comments, and it seems that we made a difference!
Last week, Michael Taylor, the FDA official leading the process wrote: ”You spoke. We heard you.”
The FDA will make “significant changes” on precisely those points that worried farmers most.
In a statement, Taylor wrote:
Because of the input we received from farmers and the concerns they expressed about the impact of these rules on their lives and livelihood, we realized that significant changes must be made, while ensuring that the proposed rules remain consistent with our food safety goals.
For that reason, we are planning to revise language in the proposed rules affecting farmers and plan to publish it in the Federal Register for public comment by early summer.
Hooray! Sometimes the squeaky wheel does get the grease!
The announcement drew approval from Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), who authored a key amendment to the original FSMA legislation protecting farmers selling locally, as well as Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), herself a small farmer, Representative Doc Hastings (R-WA), and the entire Vermont Congressional delegation.
Since we all know that eating lots of healthy fruits and vegetables is good for us, and actually makes us happier, this is great news.
Of course, we still have to wait and see, next summer, what the changes will look like and how long the comment period will last, but at least the FDA has listened to comments from small farmers, as well as from members of the public, concerned at the possible loss of their favorite farmers’ markets.
Over the past two decades, the number of farmers markets in America has quadrupled to 8,144, and supermarkets, restaurants, schools, hospitals and other wholesale buyers are increasingly using food they procure from local farmers. This is fresh produce generally grown without pesticides, herbicides or GMO seeds.
Clearly, it would be insanity to lose this wonderful produce.
So a big “Thank You” to Michael Taylor and the FDA for working to find a way to make food safer without hurting small farmers.
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