Action Alert: Keep Small Farmers and Food Producers in Business

Take Action on FDA’s 2014 Proposed Food Safety Regulations!

The FDA’s re-proposed Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules will have a disastrous impact on small, sustainable farms and food businesses if they are approved as written. Many producers will have to raise prices, or could be driven out of business, reducing consumer access to local, healthy foods.

farm-closed-cropThe real risk for foodborne illness comes from the large-scale, industrialized food system, with its national or even multinational sourcing and distribution chains. But the FDA’s rules take a one-size-fits-all approach on many issues, imposing costly burdens on small producers who are not the source of the problem. In addition, many of the new requirements are so confusing that they will raise costs and penalize producers simply from the confusion they will create!

Please urge the FDA to change the proposed rules to ensure that they do not drive good producers out of business. You can help whether you are a farmer, food producer, or consumer – we need everyone to add their voice in order to make an impact in changing these rules.

You can help in several ways, even if you have just a few minutes — we’ve made it easy with step-by-step instructions below.



Sign the Joint Letter to Protect the Exemption for Small-Scale, Local Producers

The Tester-Hagan exemption in FSMA provides vital protection for small-scale, direct-marketing producers from some of the most onerous provisions of the new law. But FDA is not implementing it fairly! Will you add your voice to our letter telling the agency to respect the letter and intent of the law?

You can sign on as an individual consumer, farmer, or food business — or, if you are authorized to speak for a nonprofit, you can sign on your organization.

Sign on at


We are collecting sign-on’s to the letter until Friday, December 12.

After you sign on to the joint letter, please take a few more minutes and submit individual comments to FDA about the substantive issues with the proposed rules.




Comment on the Other Provisions of the Proposed Rules

Many good farmers and food producers will be subject to the proposed rules despite the Tester-Hagan exemption, so it’s important that we urge FDA to fix the problems with the substantive requirements of the rules, too.

The deadline for submitting comments to FDA is Monday, December 15.

Below is a sample letter for consumers and concerned citizens to use, with recommendations to FDA to fix the top six problems with the proposed rules. You can copy & paste the letter into your own document, but please take a moment to personalize your comments to make your letter more effective!



You can use the sample letter in this alert, but you can have a greater impact by including specific information about how these regulations will affect your farm or business. Please click here for additional info on FSMA and details on how to submit expanded comments.

Instructions for Submitting Comments


NOTE: Submit your comment in TWO places – on the Produce Safety Rule for farms and on the HARPC Rule for facilities. This is important because many of these issues affect both rules.

a) Produce Rule:
b) HARPC Rule:

Instructions for submitting comments online:

    • Using the sample letter below, write your comment on your computer & save it as an electronic file.
    • In the comment box, type “see attached,” and then upload the file with your comments.
    • Uncheck the box that says “I am submitting on behalf of a third party,” so that you do not have to enter an organization name.
    • For category, select “individual consumer” or “private industry.”

  • Click “continue.”
  • Check the box that you have read and understood the statement, and be sure to click “submit comment.” You should be taken to a new screen with a confirmation number.



share2Share this information with your communities! Please ask your neighbors, customers, and business partners to help by letting them know that they can submit comments, too. Below are various ways you can help:

Facebook sample post: FDA’s re-proposed Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules will have a disastrous impact on small, sustainable farms and food businesses if they are approved as written. Tell FDA to make the necessary changes in the rules to keep our small farms and food producers in business! –>

Twitter sample tweet: Take action on FDA proposed food safety regulations – keep small farmers & food producers in business #localfood




Click here to download an editable Word version of the sample letter.

Re: Preventive Controls Rule: FDA-2011-N-0920, Produce Standards Rule: FDA-2011-N-0921

I am a ____ [consumer, farmer, food business ….].

[Personalize your comment with a couple of sentences: Do you buy direct from farmers, are you involved in a food co-op or CSA, etc? Are you a farmer or a food business? Add a sentence or two to explain why this issue is important to you.]

I am writing because I am concerned about the impact that FDA’s re-proposed FSMA rules will have on [my farm / business, other farmers in my community, the farms that I buy food from, etc.]. The large-scale, industrialized food system, with its national or even multinational sourcing and distribution chains, carries the greatest risk for foodborne illness outbreaks. The agency should focus its limited resources on these sources of risk, rather than burdening small-scale farms and food business with unnecessary costs or ambiguous and vague requirements.

I am specifically concerned about the issues discussed below.

1. Qualified Exemptions under the Tester-Hagan amendment: FDA should implement the Tester-Hagan provisions in a manner that doesn’t risk pushing a small-scale producer out of business with a too-hasty or erroneous decision to revoke their exemption and too-short deadlines for compliance. Specifically, before the agency revokes a producer’s exemption, the regulations should provide for normal due process protections, such as a specific statement of the reasons in the notice of revocation, a reasonable period of time (at least 90 days) for the producer to respond, and a required hearing.

The agency should also provide at least a year for any small or very small producer whose exemption is revoked to come into compliance with the FSMA regulations. Requiring these small and micro-businesses to comply in a shorter time period than large scale Ag would effectively drive them out of business, which violates the intent of the Tester-Hagan provision.

2. Water Standards & Testing: FDA was directed by Congress to take a science- and risk-based approach to regulation, but the proposed requirements for irrigation water do not do so. Instead, the rules require that farmers’ irrigation water meet the recreational water standard; but it makes no sense to require a farmer irrigating his or her crops to use water that would be safe for swimming. I urge the agency to make the following changes:

  • The FDA should not set a numeric standard until it has conducted a risk assessment specifically for water for agricultural purposes.
  • The requirements for testing need to be clarified, including the options for when a farmer may test less frequently or use water that exceeds the standard. The current proposal, with its complex time delay logarithm, is extremely confusing and will inevitably lead to both higher costs and violations for farmers who simply can’t figure out how to reasonably comply.
  • FDA should reduce the frequency of testing, requiring no more than 3 samples per growing season. As currently proposed, the testing frequencies are overly burdensome, lack scientific justification, and will impose significant costs on farmers.

3. Domestic Livestock: FDA should not treat grazing like manure application and should not restrict diversified farms through unrealistic intervals between grazing a field and harvest of a crop. The maximum waiting period should be 120 days, with an option for a shorter waiting period if steps are taken to prevent or detect contamination of the crop, including the use of hand harvesting.

4. Records and Recordkeeping Requirements: I urge the FDA to limit the recordkeeping requirements, particularly for farms that pack or hold produce from other farms, as follows:

  • Accept records kept in the ordinary course of business that reflect the immediate buyer and/or seller, such as an invoice;
  • Accept paper records, whether typed of handwritten (a requirement that records be kept electronically would be unnecessary, impose undue expense, and discriminate against those farmers who have no or limited access to technology);
  • Require that the records be kept for no more than one year.

5. Supplier Verification Program: FDA should remove the supplier verification program from the HARPC rule. At a minimum, FDA should remove the onsite audit requirement from the supplier verification program. The FDA should also remove the provision that qualified farms or facilities provide written assurances that they meet federal requirements. The supplier verification program effectively imposes an entire second layer of regulation on produce farms who are supplying ingredients to wholesalers and processors, an unnecessary burden that is not authorized by FSMA.

6. Environmental and Product Testing: These provisions vastly increase the cost of the proposed rule and will drive many businesses out of business without necessarily improving food safety. FDA should drop these provisions entirely.


[Full name, city and state]