Posted by Dave on November 29, 2010
Food Safety VOTE is TODAY: Tell your Senators to support the Manager's amendment to protect family farmers - Vote YES for family farmers!
Today may be your last chance to make sure protections for family farm, local and organic producers are included in the new food safety bill. As early as this afternoon or later this evening, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the Food Safety Modernization Act, S.510.
In the week prior to Thanksgiving, more than 10,000 Food Democracy Now! members made phone calls to their Senators, ensuring that important provisions protecting local food producers in the Tester Amendment were included in the Manager’s amendment. Without these amendments, S. 510 has the potential to harm the fastest growing segments in agriculture through expensive regulatory burdens on small farmers.
Unfortunately, almost as soon as you helped win this important victory for small farmers and the local food movement, Big Ag went on the attack and is now seeking to kill these important provisions. 1
We can’t let that happen.
To make matters worse, not only is Big Ag trying to kill family farm protections, but fringe elements of the Tea Party are trying to kill S.510 based on misinformation and lies. The problem here is that in all the confusion Big Ag could succeed in killing the Manager's amendment and the food safety bill could pass WITHOUT important local farm protections. This would be a disaster!
In the past several weeks controversy and misinformation regarding the food safety bill have continued to swirl around the Internet. 2 Emails from various groups and frightened individuals have falsely claimed that S.510 will kill the organic industry, take away people’s rights to save seeds and even outlaw backyard gardens. Despite numerous attempts to debunk these outlandish claims these rumors persist. 3
This morning in a New York Times editorial, food experts and authors Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser called the food safety bill “the best opportunity in a generation to improve the safety of the American food supply” and roundly dispelled the fear mongering as the work of Big Ag and Tea Party elements within the food movement. 4
While legitimate concerns have been expressed by small farm and consumer groups the compromise reached two weeks ago in the Senate, Food Democracy Now! believes that the inclusion of the Tester amendment in the Manager’s amendment have gone a long way in offering real protections for family-scale producers selling food locally to consumers, farmers markets, grocery stores and restaurants.
As part of the Tester amendment compromise, family farmers that direct market are exempt from certain food safety bill requirements if they earn less than $500,000 annually over a 3-year period and sell locally within a state or 275 miles from their farm or facility. Additionally, the FDA would be allowed to revoke the exemption for any facility or farm associated with a foodborne outbreak. 5
Food Democracy Now! believes these are important provisions which, when included with those previously as a part of the Manager’s amendment, are vital steps that must be included in the food safety bill to protect small farmers and the local food movement. Provisions included in the Manager's amendment are: reduction of unnecessary paperwork, competitive grants for food safety training, allowing co-mingling of products from several farms engaged in low or no risk processing, exemption from excessive traceability and recordkeeping for farmers with direct sales, and allowing a label that preserves identity of the farm to meet traceability requirements.
Like any legislation, the food safety bill is not perfect, but it does work to address serious gaps in current food safety law. Each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 5,000 people in the U.S. die as a result of foodborne illness, while more than 76 million Americans are sickened and some 325,000 hospitalized, costing the U.S. economy more than $152 billion. 6
The Food Safety Modernization Act is an important piece of legislation that would for the first time give the FDA mandatory recall authority over food safety outbreaks, allowing it to recall contaminated food and also “require more frequent inspections of large-scale, high-risk food-production plants.” 7
Today your Senators will vote to decide whether America gets improved food safety legislation that protects both consumers and family farmers.
Let them know that YOU think it’s vital that their constituents want legislation that gives the FDA mandatory recall authority, protects yours children and loved ones from industrialized food facilities and factory farms not following the law and ensures that the legislation is fair to family farmers and the local food movement.
Please call your Senators today and ask that they vote YES for the family-farm provisions in the Manager’s Amendment and pass the Food Safety Modernization Act.
The bill is set for a vote later today and farmers need to call your Senators. Tell them it's times to stand up for family farmers, farmers markets and restaurants that source their products locally from small farmers.
If you can get one other person to make a call today you could double the efforts of Food Democracy Now! members - grab your husband, your girlfriend, your son or daughter or co-worker to see if they’ll take a minute to make a call to protect small farmers and to make our food more safe.
This may be our last best hope of protecting consumers and small farmers alike - please take a moment to make this important call today!
Thank you for participating in food democracy,
- Dave, Lisa and The Food Democracy Now! Team
1. “Food and Ag Groups Rally Against Tester Amendment”, Helena Bottemiller, Food Safety News, November 16, 2010.
2. “Facts and rumors: the current status of S. 510”, Marion Nestle, Food Politics, November 24, 2010
3. “Will the Food Safety Modernization Act harm small farms or producers?”, Grist, November 10, 2010
4. “A Stale Food Fight,” Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, Op-Ed, New York Times, November, 28, 2010
5. “Compromise Reached on Tester Amendment, Consumer Groups Agree to Support: Food Safety Bill Moves Forward in Senate Today”, Dave Murphy, Food Democracy Now!, November 18, 2010.
6. “Food-Related Illness and Death in the United States” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
7. “A Stale Food Fight,” Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, Op-Ed, New York Times, November, 28, 2010