Good News: FDA Extends Comment Period on Proposed Food Safety Rules

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it will extend the comment period on the proposed rules under the Food and Safety Modernization Act by another 120 days. We now have until September 13, 2013 to submit public comments on the proposed rules.

Thank you to all the organizations and farms who joined us in writing a letter to the FDA, and to everyone who submitted comments to the FDA and contacted their legislators!

This extra time is vital for understanding the 1,200 pages of proposed rules and submitting comments. The FDA failed to base these rules on sound science, and instead proposed extensive, complicated new requirements that basically assume the worst of every situation and then force the farmers to find science on their own to prove that their farming methods are safe.

Although small, direct-marketing farms and processors are exempt from the new rules under the Tester-Hagan amendment, there are many family-owned and operated farms that don’t fall within the amendment. In addition, opponents of local foods are already looking for ways to undermine the Tester-Hagan amendment and impose these unreasonable regulations on every farmer and food producer, no matter how small.

We will be making good use of the extra time to do an in-depth analysis of the rules and work with our farmers and food producers to develop comments to address food safety in a reasonable manner.

If you’d like to be involved in the process of analyzing the rules, please contact


Below are some of the key issues we have identified in our initial review of the proposed rules. There is a lot more work to do to complete our analysis, and these are just a few highlights.

On both rules:

The proposed regulations are ambiguous, and the potential for unfair enforcement is significant. There are numerous places where FDA sets a very subjective standard, so that the violation will be in the eye of the beholder – or whichever FDA inspector happens to come to that farm.

The extensive record-keeping requirements of every aspect of the farm and food production would be crushing to small and mid-sized businesses. Family-owned and operated farms know that their future depends on providing safe food. They should not be subjected to unnecessary, complex, ambiguous regulations that will serve only to drive many good producers out of business.

On the produce safety rule:

The 9-month waiting period between applying animal-based soil amendments is too long for most cases. The restriction covers not only raw manure, but vermicompost or any other compost that hasn’t been documented to meet FDA’s standards. It also includes compost teas that simply use ingredients such as molasses or seaweed.

Weekly or even monthly water testing requirements is unnecessary and extremely expensive. Frequent testing is expensive and, in many cases, not practical because there are few companies licensed to do such testing. While it is important that water not be contaminated with harmful bacteria, that is a responsibility of the general public (acting through agencies such as the EPA), and the costs should not fall on farmers’ shoulders.

On the Tester-Hagan Amendment:

The Tester-Hagan amendment, which exempts small-scale direct-marketing farmers from these rules, reflects the will of Congress and is not open to debate at the regulatory level. Congress has already made the determination that these types of farms are different, and it is inappropriate for FDA to consider any comments that try to narrow the scope of Tester-Hagan.

For farmers that are exempted under the Tester-Hagan amendment, the proposed rule does not provide sufficient due process before revoking the exemption. Combined with the requirement that the farmer comply with all the regulations within 60 days, this could effectively kill a small farm that should not even be subject to the regulations.