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Food Fight!

December 31, 2010

Not sure whether Bluto would be for or against S510, but he would probably throw the first plate of heirloom mashed potatoes

A funny thing happened right before Christmas. The Senate finally passed S510, the so-called Food Safety and Modernization Act. This law gives the FDA pretty broad powers to regulate food safety from farm to plate. Its naysayers believe that it opens the door to government control of all food production, including regulating the backyard gardener and seed saver. Its proponents argue that it is critical to avoiding food safety debacles like the recall of 500 million eggs potentially tainted with salmonella.

As with any piece of legislation this mammoth in scope, the devil is in the details. And the details? Well, they don’t yet exist. FDA has to go through the ‘rulemaking’ process, and Congress has to fund it, to the tune of around 1.4 billion dollars.

$1.4 *BILLION* dollars for food safety? Maybe Dr. Evil has that kind of cash laying around.

The rulemaking process will take months and months and months, and the public will have the opportunity to comment at various stages. We’ll try to keep you updated as the process unfolds. Your input and feedback really can have an impact on how the rules get written.

Here are two good sources of ongoing information on this issue. The first is the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA). These are the folks that helped lead the mostly successful fight against NAIS. The second is Grist.org. They did a whole series on food safety last fall, and Tom Philpott has promised to do an update on S510 soon.

So how do I feel about this? I was opposed to S510, even after the Tester-Hagan amendment was tacked on to exempt small farmers from the regulations. I don’t think the exemption will do any good, and FDA has zero history of working with small farmers in a positive fashion. ZERO. I plan to very closely monitor the rulemaking process and to file comments on any proposed rules. In addition, if they do regional hearings similar to the ones USDA conducted for NAIS comment, I plan to travel to the closest one and lend my voice to the discussion. My best hoped-for outcome right now is that Congress won’t be able to find the funding to enact all of it.

One thing is for sure, 2011 promises to be another exciting year on the front lines of the local and sustainable food front.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. hightides permalink
    January 2, 2011 12:29 pm

    Our lawmakers(sic) have a track record of zero when it comes to understanding what it takes to be a farmer. They will undoubtedly raise the debt limit (so we can borrow more money from China) and fully fund this new department of redundancy department. Tucked into this bill is more pork than an Iowa pig farm, more manure than an Arkansas chicken ranch, and enough double-speak for any politician. Did you know you’ll have to give WalMart a 1099? Or they will have to give you one– no one’s sure. The IRS has managed to invade this bill along with everyone else. Anyone that can’t afford a full-time bookkeeper and recordkeeper will soon be out of business. Our solution will be to go straight barter.

    So, Nanc & Sue- How many heads of lettuce equals a pound of lamb?

    • January 2, 2011 7:10 pm

      Dev, I think I read that they fixed that 1099 issue during the lame duck session (thank goodness). Hey, I’m all for barter! Love your stuff!

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