Future of locally-grown food in jeopardy

As a farmer, I am concerned on a daily basis about the safety of the food I am growing.  I want to provide safe, fresh food to members of my community.  I strongly believe that the Fulton Farm and thousands of other farms across the country like the Fulton Farm grow food in an extremely safe manner due to our natural and organic growing practices, the nature of our small farms, and our local direct farm-to-consumer link.  However, the future of local food is in jeopardy due to the proposed regulations by the Food and Drug Administration to implement the new Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA).  Passed by Congress last year, the FSMA touches upon every aspect of our food system from animal, fruit and vegetable farms large (multinational, industrial-sized farms) and small (Fulton Farm), to food manufacturing and processing plants.

The FDA is not taking a scientific or experience-based approach to their proposed regulations, and therefore is presenting some very big, burdensome, and expensive future problems for farms, especially small farms.  For example, particular to sustainable and organically run farms, the FDA is proposing standards that conflict with the national certified organic standards.   Their proposed standards cannot realistically fit into the growing season for many farmers, and may eventually cause these farmers to use chemicals instead.

The regulations may very well reduce access to local food overall.  Small businesses and organizations (including local food distribution centers, CSAs, roadside stands, and farmers markets) which distribute food locally or minimally process food, could be subject to the same regulations as industrial food manufacturers and food processing plants.  These regulations will be quite excessive and expensive for small businesses.

These are only two examples of the many reasons why the FSMA is harmful to small and local food farms and small, local food organizations.  Additionally, in the original form of the FSMA, an amendment is included to exempt farms from the FSMA if their annual sales gross under a specific amount and if the majority of the food is sold directly to the consumer, restaurant, or retail food store within 275 miles.  This is a great victory for small farms.  Places like the Fulton Farm would be protected.  However, the FDA is proposing a broad authority to revoke this exemption on any farm, and the rules do not require the FDA to have proof of any problem before they take the exemption away.

Overall what does this mean if these regulations come to pass?  It means that local food will be severely restricted and hard to find for everyone.  It will be extremely difficult for new farmers to get started because of cost, and it will force many existing small and large farms that grow food for their local community out of business.  The awesome, fresh, wholesome, and delicious local food movement that has continued to grow may cease to exist.  The deadline for public comments was on November 22nd.  Only time will tell what will happen next.  But it is my hope and the hope of countless others that the FDA will seriously consider the implications of what they have proposed and listen to the thousands of concerned comments about the negative effects this will have on our health, the planet’s health, and the health of our communities.  To find more information about the FSMA, please visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s website:  http://sustainableagriculture.net/ .

Sarah Bay

Fulton Farm Manager

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