November 13, 2009

Action Alert on Food Safety Legislation

From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition...

November 12, 2009


The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will take up S. 510, the Senate version of major food safety legislation already approved by the House of Representatives, next Wednesday, November 18.

The bill would put real teeth into federal regulation of large-scale food processing corporations to better protect consumers. However, the bill as written is also a serious threat to family farm value added processing, local and regional food systems, conservation and wildlife protection, and organic farming.

We need a food safety bill that cracks down on corporate bad actors without erecting new barriers to the growing healthy food movement based on small and mid-sized family farms, sustainable and organic production methods, and more local and regional food sourcing.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Organic Coalition, have fashioned five common sense amendments to S 510. We need your help to make them happen! The House has already passed their Bill. This is our last best chance to affect the final legislation.

Step 1: Make a Call

Please Call Senator Casey's office at
(202) 224-6324 and ask for the aide in charge of food safety issues. Tell them you are a constituent and are calling to ask the Senator to support the amendments proposed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Organic Coalition to the Food Safety Modernization Act. Specifically, ask your Senator to support the following key changes to the bill:

  • The bill should direct FDA to narrow the kinds of value-added farm processing activities which are subject to FDA control and to base those regulations on sound risk analysis. (Current FDA rules assume without any scientific evidence that all farms which undertake any one of a long list of processing activities should be regulated.)

  • The bill should direct FDA to ease compliance for organic farmers by integrating 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 must 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 insist that FDA food safety standards and guidance will not contradict federal conservation, environmental, and wildlife standards and practices, and not force the farmer to choose which federal agency to obey and which to reject.

  • Farmers who sell directly to consumers should not be required to keep records and be part of a federal "traceaback" system, and all other farms should not be required to maintain records electronically or any records beyond the first point of sale past the farmgate.

Step 2: Report Your Call

Let us know how your Senator responded by clicking here and typing in a brief report.

Step 3: Learn More

For more information on the Senate Food Safety bill, please see NSAC's Talking Points here and its Policy Brief Food Safety on the Farm here:


Harry Hamil, Black Mountain, NC said...

This NSAC/NOC Action Alert fails to include the most dangerous part of S 510--its near universal requirement for formal, complex, expensive food safety plans (Sec. 103 of the bill).

ALL facilities required to register under the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 will be required to have this REGARDLESS OF SIZE. Small processors (including many farms)and small distributors (including EVERY farm marketing group) will be required to have them. As well documented by Food & Water Watch in its important study, "Where's the local beef?" similar requirements for meat & poultry processors have lead to a critical shortage of small processors willing to handle the small volumes of pasture raised meat and poultry. Seeing this danger over a year ago, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm realized the need to buy out his processor so he would be guaranteed the processing capacity he needs.

It does us, growers, no good to grow healthy food if we can't process and distribute it. And the CURRENT FDA rules say that mixing salad greens, providing FDA required labels and any packaging like putting loose herbs into a ziplock bag is processing.

As written, this bill will have the unintended consequence of relegating us to the margins because growers will need to sell over half of their produce directly to the public to be able to avoid the food safety plan requirements.

Fortunately, led by the staff of Sen. Burr (R-NC), a co-sponsor of the bill, there is a major attempt to make the food safety plan requirement applicable ONLY to facilities which have a 3 year annual average gross profit of $500,000. "Gross profit" = gross income - cost of goods sold. It is NOT net profit. This formulation is necessary to include small manufacturers (e.g., Lusty Monk Mustard) and small distributors because they pass through so much of what they take in to local, sustainable farmers.

Calls must be made by 5 PM, Tuesday, November 17.

Step 1: Call Sen. Burr's office at 202/224-3154 or any of the other Senate HELP Committee members (see for members and click on a name to reach the Senator's website.)

Step 2: Ask for Senator's staff person for food safety or agriculture.

Step 3: Explain who you are, you support of the local food movement, and ask for the $500,000 gross profit minimum threshold for requiring food safety plans.

Step 4: Inform me of your action by dropping me a note at or calling me at 828/669-4003.

I will be happy to assist you in any way that I can. My wife, Elaine, and I have been working for 14 years reviving local food for local people here in Western NC. This will destroy most of what we have worked for (including quite possibly our own business) and cripple the healthy food movement.

Thanks for taking the time to consider my comment.

Fillippelli the (Wannabe) Cook said...

Thanks very much for that important information, Harry. I'll be calling Sen. Casey's office today!