Judith McGeary, 254-697-2661 (office) or 512-484-8821 (cell)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Farms, Markets, Food Businesses, and Nonprofits Across the Country Speak Out
Against FDA’s Undermining of Congressional Intent in Proposed Food Safety Regulations
AUSTIN, Texas – November 25, 2013 – Almost 300 farms, farmers markets, food businesses, and nonprofit organization submitted a joint letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), urging significant changes to the agency’s proposed rules regarding the Tester-Hagan exemption under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
“In 2010, over 100 organizations and thousands of individuals worked together to convince Congress to include the Tester-Hagan exemption in the Food Safety Modernization Act,” explained Judith McGeary, a Central Texas farmer and Executive Director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.
“The Tester-Hagan provision, which exempts small-scale, direct-marketing farmers and food producers from some of the new federal regulations, is vital to the continued survival and growth of the local foods movement. Unfortunately, FDA’s proposed regulations did not properly implement the provision,” added McGeary.
The joint letter identified several problems with the FDA’s proposed implementation of the Tester-Hagan provision. First, the FDA wants to judge farmers’ sales based on all their sales, not just the food that is subject to FDA regulation. This means that many diversified farmers will be unable to qualify for the exemption, even if they are raising only small amounts of food covered by the law.
Second, the agency’s approach allows a producer’s exemption to be revoked at the discretion of individual agency officials. Moreover, if their exemption is revoked, small producers would have insufficient time to come into compliance with the new requirements. In essence, this means that any farmer or producer targeted by the FDA for revocation of its exemption will almost certainly go out of business. A producer’s exemption could be revoked even if their food had never caused a single illness.
“Since all the food we eat comes from our farm, we’re always careful about food safety,” says Carol Ann Sayles of Boggy Creek Farm in Austin, Texas. “Every week we have thousands of inspectors – our customers – eat our organically grown fruits and vegetables, and in 22 years, we have never received a complaint from anyone.”
The number of producers targeted for revocation by the FDA is likely to be small, but it will be devastating for those affected. And the uncertainty of not knowing who might be the agency’s next target will have a chilling effect on many small producers.
“The FDA’s interpretation of the Tester-Hagan amendment to the Food Safety Modernization Act will hurt small diverse family farmers and ranchers working to bring healthy, fresh, local and sustainably raised foods to their customers,” stated Ben Burkett, farmer and Executive Director of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives and National Family Farm Coalition. “This counters the efforts of USDA and Mrs. Obama to bring nutritious foods to households in communities of all income levels.”
Several organizations also submitted joint comments on the substance of the FDA’s proposed rules. To read the joint letter on the Tester-Hagan exemption, go to: http://farmandranchfreedom.org/joint-letter-to-fda-on-tester-hagan-exemption
To read the comments on the specifics of the proposed rules, go to:
About Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) is a national organization that supports independent family farmers and protects a healthy and productive food supply for American consumers. FARFA promotes common sense policies for local, diversified agricultural systems.