The FDA’s proposed regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act would impose significant burdens on farmers of all types and sizes. Sustainable farmers in particular will face problems because of the severe restrictions on the use of biological soil amendments. Diversified livestock and crop farms will face additional challenges under the proposed regulations dealing with the presence of animals on the farm.
Below is a sign-on letter in support of the Benishek provision in the Farm Bill, which would require the FDA to publish a scientific analysis and an economic analysis before enforcing any rules under FSMA. Senator Angus King (I-ME) had introduced a similar provision in the Senate, although it was not voted on. FARFA, along with 38 other organizations, sent the letter to the Senate Farm Bill conferees and the House leadership on September 9, 2013.
The undersigned organizations urge you to include Section 11321 of HR 2642 in the final Farm Bill in order to protect U.S. farmers from unnecessary and overly burdensome regulations by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
We all agree that food safety is important. But in seeking greater food safety, it is vital that the regulations be based on sound science and sound economics.
The FDA’s proposed regulations include provisions that are not based on sound science and that will not achieve the goal of food safety. In addition, FDA’s proposed regulations will impose significant financial burdens on farmers and food producers, putting many domestic producers out of business.
In so doing, the proposed regulations actually threaten to reduce food safety by increasing our reliance on foreign food sources. The U.S. already imports about 15 percent of our food supply, including nearly 50 percent of fresh fruit and 20 percent of fresh vegetables. Yet less than two percent of this imported food is inspected by the FDA, and foodborne illnesses from imported food are on the rise.1
To address this problem, Representative Dan Benishek (R-MI) introduced Section 11321, which was adopted by the House; Senator Angus King (I-ME) proposed a similar provision, which was not voted on by the Senate. Section 11321 requires that, before enforcing the regulations, the FDA publish:
(1) An analysis of the scientific information used in the final rule, with a focus on agricultural businesses of a variety of sizes, regional differences, and diversified producers;
(2) An analysis of the economic impact of the final rule, with a focus on agricultural businesses of different sizes and small- and mid-sized value added food processors;
(3) A plan to systematically evaluate the regulations and develop an ongoing process to address problems that arise under the regulations.
These requirements are consistent with the intent of FSMA, in which Congress repeatedly directed FDA to establish “science-based” requirements, and with the existing federal requirements for an economic analysis of all proposed rules. Section 11321 also requires FDA to submit an annual report to the relevant Congressional committees on the impact of the FSMA regulations. These requirements serve the goal of food safety, while ensuring that our domestic producers do not face unnecessary and counterproductive costs.
The FDA’s current analysis, of both the science and the economics, is inadequate. As just one example, in analyzing the economic impacts, the FDA assumed that small and very small farms only operate 3 months out of the year, with a harvest period of only 45 days.2 This is simply wrong with respect to the majority of the small farms in this country. In many southern and West Coast areas, farmers have a 9 to 12 month growing season and harvest crops on an ongoing basis throughout the growing season. Many small farms in northern states also grow for much longer periods, using hoophouses to extend their growing seasons. This one false assumption by FDA means the true costs of the regulations will be significantly greater than what FDA has estimated.
FDA made other assumptions not based on facts or data. For example, while imposing stringent water quality standards that will require thousands of farmers to treat their irrigation water, the FDA acknowledges that there are currently no EPA-approved water treatments available.3 The FDA “believes” that the EPA will approve methods before the regulation goes into effect. If that belief is wrong, then farmers will be forced to stop irrigating their crops or purchase treated water from municipalities at extreme cost, assuming they even have access to municipal sources.
Even FDA’s flawed analysis shows that the costs will be potentially crippling for many farmers. According to the FDA, the average annual cost to comply with FSMA’s produce safety regulations for “very small farms” will be $4,697 per year; the average cost for a “small farm” will be $12,972 per year; and the average cost for a “large farm” will be $30,566 per year.4
These costs are simply not feasible for many farms, considering the low profitability of farming. According to the USDA, many farms “are not profitable even in the best farm income years.”5 In fact, in 2012, the median farm income was a loss of $1,453.
Section 11321 of the House version of the Farm Bill addresses the need for new food safety regulations to be based on sound science and sound economics, and establishes consequences if FDA fails to respect Congressional intent.
We respectfully urge you to support both American farmers and American consumers by including Section 11321, “scientific and economic analysis of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act,” in the Farm Bill.
Alliance for Natural Health
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (MA)
Dakota Rural Action (SD)
Environmental League of Massachusetts
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Farm Life Foundation
Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
GROW North Texas
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Keep Food Legal
Long Beach Grows (CA)
Maine Alternative Agriculture Association
Maryland Farm Bureau
Massachusetts Farm Bureau
Michigan Land Trustees
Montana Farmers Union
Natural Environmental Ecological Management
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society
North Country Sustainability Center, Inc.
North Missoula Community Development Corp. (MT)
Northeast Organic Farming Association – Interstate Council
Northeast Organic Farming Association – Massachusetts
Northeast Organic Farming Association – Rhode Island
Northern Plains Resource Council (MT)
Powder River Basin Resource Council
San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project
Second Chance Foundation (NY)
Slow Food Austin (TX)
Slow Food First Coast
Slow Food Nebraska
Sustainable Food Center (TX)
Taos County Economic Development Corp. (NM)
Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
The Cornucopia Institute
Urban Harvest (TX)
Weston A. Price Foundation
For more information, please contact Judith McGeary, Esq., Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, at Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org, 254-697-2661.
2FDA, Analysis of Economic Impacts – Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption, at p.10.
3FDA, Analysis of Economic Impacts – Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption, at p.152.
4FDA, Analysis of Economic Impacts – Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption, at p.299
5Median Farm Household Income Forecast Lower in 2013, http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-economy/farm-sector-income-finances/highlights-from-the-2013-farm-income-forecast.aspx#.UheWHn9KYT0 (accessed August 27, 2013)