Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Food Safety Modernization Act: Learn More

Everyone has a role in ensuring safe food from field to fork. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the first major overhaul of our nation’s food safety practices since 1938, and it includes new regulations of practices on produce farms and in facilities that process food for people to eat. It represents some big changes to our food system – and it is extremely important for the Food and Drug Administration to get these regulations right.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition website is intended to help farmers, processors, and other interested parties understand the proposed rules, learn about potential issues of concern for sustainable agriculture, and get involved in speaking out to ensure the final rules foster good food safety practices across the nation without placing an unfair burden on family farmers.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed rules implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that, by the agency’s own analysis, could reverse the trend of new and beginning farmers entering the industry and force many existing farms and food businesses out of operation.

The proposed produce rule establishes new regulatory standards that govern production practices on farms that produce fresh food for people, such as how they manage things like water and recordkeeping.

In the analysis accompanying the proposed rule, the new rules are estimated to cost the domestic produce industry about $460 million annually.

The rules, available for public comment in the Federal Register until Sept. 16, are estimated to cost farmers:

·       Very small farm, $25,000-$250,000 in sales, about $4,700 per year
·       Small farm, $250,000-$500,000 in sales, about $13,000 per year
·       Large farm, more than $500,000 in sales, about $30,500 per year

For many farmers who are currently growing produce and for beginning farmers who are interested in growing produce for local direct or wholesale markets, the cost of compliance could be too steep.

In passing the FSMA, Congress included many provisions intended to protect local food production and distribution from inappropriate and costly regulations.

Congress included directives for modified risk and scale appropriate requirements for farms and entrepreneurs with short supply chains and sales below $500,000.

The $500,000 sales threshold, however, applies to all food produced by the farm, not just the fresh produce that is regulated by FSMA. Corn, soybeans, cattle, pigs and eggs sold by a farm all count towards this threshold.

This means if a farm with 500 acres of field corn and around $500,000 in annual sales also has a few acres planted in mixed vegetables to sell at a local farmers market or plants a field of pumpkins for an October farm stand, those few acres would be covered by the full produce rule even if their total sales only amounted to $50,000 or less.

This would subject farmers to thousands of dollars in annual compliance costs — even if the majority of their crop (field corn) isn’t subject to the new rules.

The rules do not explicitly protect conservation practices on farms that are essential to protect water quality and provide important wildlife habitat.

The rules include costly water and water-testing standards. Manure and compost standards conflict with the National Organic Program regulations and rely on limited scientific evidence.

To learn more about the FSMA and the potential effects of the proposed produce rule, the federal comment period and what you can do to protect diversified family farms and local food visit: http://sustainableagriculture.net/fsma/.

(from the Iowa Farmer Today)

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