House Passes Food Safety Bill With Tester-Hagan Amendment

This afternoon, the House voted 215-144 to approve the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (now HR 2751), including the Tester-Hagan amendment.

The bill has taken many bizarre procedural twists. Throughout the process, Agribusiness repeatedly tried to prevent the Tester-Hagan amendment from being included. Even today, members of the House critiqued the bill’s protections for small-scale direct marketing producers.

It’s clear that, without your calls, the bill would have passed without any protection for small-scale producers. Thank you for all of your calls and letters over the last year!

As passed, the bill includes the same version of the Tester-Hagan amendment as S510: It exempts producers grossing under $500,000 (adjusted for inflation) and selling more than half of their products directly to “qualified end users” from the HACCP-type requirements and the produce safety standards. “Qualified end users” means individual consumers (with no geographic limitation), or restaurants and retail food establishments that are EITHER located in the same state OR within 275 miles of the producer.

While complex, this amendment effectively carves out small-scale producers who are selling in-state or to local foodsheds from two of the most burdensome provisions of the bill. More details on the Tester-Hagan amendment are available on our website.

There is still cause for concern about how FDA will exercise the new powers granted to it in S510. The agency’s track record is one of favoring Agribusiness at the expense of both family farmers and consumers. S510 does not address the underlying problems of consolidation of our food system or the industry capture of the agency, which result in the agency’s flawed policies. But the inclusion of the Tester-Hagan amendment provides critical protections for producers who sell at farmers markets, through CSAs, and at local co-ops and groceries, helping us to continue to build our movement and fight for fundamental changes.

We owe a thank you to Senator Tester and Senator Hagan for standing up for local producers and consumers.

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

The bill will now go to the President, who is expected to sign it.

Passing the law is still only one step in this process. Next year, Congress will face the issue of how to fund all of the new regulations and new FDA bureaucrats. To actually implement the entire bill, Congress will have to approve $1.4 billion of new spending or cut other programs accordingly, based on the CBO estimates. This gives us a chance to affect the level of funding and seek limits how the money can be spent.

And on the agency side, the FDA will have to go through the rulemaking process. We expect that the agency will focus on writing rules that benefit Agribusiness and disadvantage independent producers, as usual. We will have to take action to ensure that our concerns are on the record and to urge Congressional official to take steps to rein in the agency from overstepping its bounds.

Please stay tuned for future updates! Your calls and support were critical to getting the Tester-Hagan amendment approved, and we will need your help again when it comes to the appropriations and rulemaking stages.