Today, the Senate passed the massive Food Safety Modernization Act, giving the FDA broad powers to police potentially unsafe foods before large-scale outbreaks occur. The House passed its version of the bill last year, and Congress still has to iron out differences between the two bills before it can be made law.
Small farmers have been concerned that the bill is aimed at larger producers who are responsible for most food safety issues, and would create far too great a burden in paperwork and cost to implement on a small scale. A big concession was made to small farms last week when the Tester-Hagan Amendment was passed, limiting federal oversight to farms with more than $500,000 in gross sales yearly. Farms with less than $500,000 in sales are still subject to state and local legislation but do not have to comply with these new stringent federal laws overseen by the FDA.
Although small-scale farmers are very happy about this, larger players in the agriculture industry have griped about the changes. On the side of small farms, Roland McReynolds wrote in an opinion piece in Food Safety News yesterday:
The effect of changes won to S. 510 by sustainable agriculture advocates, including and in addition to the Tester-Hagan Amendment, is not to exempt small and local food producers from the need to manage pathogens, but to foster the development of multiple climate-, scale- and market-appropriate models for promoting safe and healthy food in a sector of the farm economy largely ignored heretofore by research institutions. Before we won the inclusion of Tester-Hagan, we fought for the Stabenow amendment, which would create incentives for universities and trade groups to tailor research and training to the unique conditions of small and diversified farming operations, so that those growers can have access to the best, most up-to-date, most relevant information. Tester-Hagan increases the leverage for these farms and food producers to demand increased training and research resources for the local food sector.
Read more about S510, the Food Safety Modernization Act: