National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Sees Improvements in Food Safety Bill

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition put out an update on the status of federal food safety legislation affecting farmers.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously approved a revised version of S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act last Wednesday.

The coalition indicates its supporters helped to move the concerns of family farm value added, sustainable and organic farmers to the forefront of the Committee discussion.  It notes there is still work to be done, but the bill voted out of Committee includes a number of substantial victories. The coalition notes:

The fresh produce section of the bill requires FDA to coordinate with USDA and the National Organic Program and to create rules that:

•    are flexible and appropriate to the scale and diversity of the farm,
•    take into consideration conservation and environmental standards established federal conservation, wildlife, and environmental agencies,
•    not include requirements that conflict or duplicate organic standards,
•    prioritize for implementation rules for crops that have been associated with foodborne illness

In the traceability section, the bill limits recordkeeping requirements for produce farms without processing facilities to information about the initial sale to the first purchaser of the crop.

Senators who were supportive of the concerns of family farm value added producers included Harkin (IA), Enzi (WY), Bennet (CO), Bingaman (NM), Brown (OH), Burr (NC), Franken (MN), Merkley (OR), Hagen (NC),  Dodd (CT),  Gregg (NH),  Murray (WA) and Sanders (VT).

The coalition recommends thanking them for their leadership.

The coalition plans to continue to push for a narrowing of the definition of a  farm “facility” to exempt farms doing value-added processing of low-risk foods and for a national training program for farms and small processors.

There is a possibility the measure could reach the floor in December, but it will likely be next year.  The House has already passed its companion bill. Once the full Senate takes action the House and Senate will conference to work out the wide ranging differences between the two bills.

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