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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Food Safety Enhancement Act Takes Hit in House, Still a Threat to Small Farms

Update 09:55 CDT: Heads up! The House leadership has put HR 2749 on the House agenda for another vote today! The House Rules Committee says it is listening to rural opposition and exempting small direct-to-consumer producers from the fees and registration. Read those changes closely, SHS!

HR 2749, the scary Food Safety Enhancement Act, received a vote of 280–150 in the House yesterday. Fortunately for small farmers and food freedom, the House was trying to pass the measure without amendment or debate, a suspension of the rules (read your Robert's!) that requires a two-thirds vote, which should be 290 in a full House.

Why do I say whew! on this defeat? Please recall my and Flying Tomato's comments from the beginning of the month: HR 2749 sounds nice, but Washington would basically be piling on with Pierre's "bigger is better" philosophy and onerous regulations that have small farmers afraid to sell their wares.

The big problem with HR 2749: it takes a one-size-fits-all approach that puts the safer and healthier small operations at a further disadvantage against their dirtier corporate competitors. For instance, the bill imposes a complicated tracing system and registration fees would be no sweat for big operations but a heavy burden to the small operators already operating on baling-twine budgets and stretched-thin labor.

If we're talking food safety, the bill should focus much more on big corporate operations. Consider that on the CDC's list of recent E. coli outbreaks, the health threats came from big outfits like JBS Swift, Jeno's Pizza, and Taco Bell, not roadside berry stands or farmers' market breadsmiths.

As the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund argues, "HR 2749 does not address underlying causes of food safety problems such as industrial agriculture practices and the consolidation of our food supply." (See also FTCLDF's talking points on HR 2749's further ills, like warrantless searches by the FDA and crop regulation that ought to have anti-nanny-state hawks shouting from the rooftops). The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition thinks the bill is salvageable with amendments but said the current form still poses a greater threat to small farms, wildlife, and biodiversity while ignoring conservation.

Unfortunately, South Dakota's lone vote in the House, Rep. Stepahnie Herseth Sandlin, voted for big ag with a yea for HR 2749 yesterday. But that wasn't enough to pass it under the special rules. Again, whew! Small farmers and farmers market producers, take advantage of the August recess to get hold of SHS and our senators and tell them you're all for food safety but that HR 2749 needs to be retargeted to the actual problem (big corporations) before it gets any further consideration in Congress.

1 comment:

  1. I am a citizen of Madison SD, and I am angry about this bill and feel let down by the government. I have an appointment I need to get to so I cant fully comment at this moment. I just wanted to say thank you for trying to make more people aware of this.
    ~Becky Ales


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