The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) final rule for farms that raise produce for human consumption, “is going to be very damaging for the growing local food movement, and the millions of American consumers who want more access, not less, to healthy local foods,” stated Judith McGeary, founder and Executive Director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, and a farmer herself.
The final rule comes after two rounds of proposed rulemaking, an unusual procedure taken by FDA in response to the outcry caused by the initial proposed rule. The final rule retains many of the positive changes that had been made in the second proposed rulemaking, but FDA made only a few additional changes.
“On the positive side, the final rule retains the changes relating to the use of compost and manure, as well as adding some clarification on grazing and the frequency required for water testing,” stated Ms. McGeary. “Unfortunately, the agency chose to ignore the comments it received about the unrealistic standard for irrigation water, as well as the scope of the qualified exemption.”
FDA’s final rule includes standards for irrigation water that are based on the standard that applies to recreational waters, such as streams that people swim in. Numerous organizations and experts argued that the standard was unnecessarily restrictive and impractical when applied to agricultural uses.
In addition, Congress included a “qualified exemption” in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), exempting small-scale direct-marketing farmers from the produce rule and setting a gross sales limit of half a million dollars a year. Although meat and grain products are not regulated under FSMA, under the final rule sales of such products will all be counted toward the gross sales limit.
“FDA’s decision to effectively narrow the scope of the Tester-Hagan qualified exemption is deeply disappointing,” contended Ms. McGeary. “In practical terms, this rule pressures grain and livestock farmers to avoid diversification, harming farmers financially and discouraging environmentally responsible land use. From a food safety standpoint, it does not make sense to treat the small-scale production of produce the same as large-scale production, simply because the same person is producing other types of food as well.”
Moreover, FDA’s final rule would allow a local FDA official to revoke a farmer’s exemption if the official claimed there were conditions at the farm or facility that posed a risk of foodborne illness, giving the agency extensive discretion. The agency did extend the deadlines for the farmer to respond as well as to come into compliance, but not as far as many commenters had urged.
“What sane person would start a small farm, knowing that he or she might have to comply with thousands of dollars of extra expense based on a bureaucrat’s say-so and very little due process?” asked Ms. McGeary. “This rule creates significant disincentives to farming, at a time when we need more farmers, not fewer.”
The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance has committed to providing materials to help farmers navigate the rules and understand their impact.
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.
November 16, 2015 Good Farming and Justice Go Together
We watch today’s carnival of presidential hopefuls and lament that there is NO one of intelligence, capability, vision, passion, conviction, courage and justice offering to lead. We lament that the very concept of leadership, as it has morphed to be nothing more than a token postion over results-driven board management, is laughable at best. Justice belonging as it does to those with the most to lose, freedom as a notion – as in the freedom to farm – simply no longer exists (not out in the open). For us to be free to farm we must first find ways to insist on the right of justice for all. LRM – from Sprung 2015 SFJ editorial
Jeremy Cherfas’ article today on National Public Radio, Farmers Have Been Enjoying The Fruits Of Bee Labor For 9,000+ Years, chronicles a recent study published in the journal Nature and conducted by the organic chemistry unit of the University of Bristol in England. New discoveries peg honey and wax collection back to at least the seventh millennium B.C. in southern Anatolia suggesting humans struck up a deal of sorts of bees about the same time as settled farming developed. We can only hope that the excesses of poison-dependent agribusiness in this century can be quickly and sufficiently curtailed to avoid our causing the catastrophic loss of this vital flying farm worker. LRM
November 11, 2015 How Do We Define Natural Food?
Allison Aubrey of NPR reports that the FDA is looking for public input on how food labels should measure “natural”. Subjective definition do not work when the goal is to control truth in labeling. Three cityzen petitions are asking for clarification and the FDA wants help, electronically. If you want to weigh in go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!home.
November 10, 2015 Demand for Good Food Creates Market Confusion and Hope for Small Farmers
McDonald’s restaurants are determined to offer cage-free eggs and real butter to its customers. Should be good news but the locomotive may have left the station before the cars were hooked up. The massive quantities of those products required by the global fast food chain cannot be met by agricultural systems of the world unless we rethink and recalibrate how food moves forward. Industrial agribusiness does not yet know how to raise cage-free laying hens in large quantities, and the dairy industry is all about volume not butterfat. Their aren’t enough Jersey, Guernsey, and Ayrshire milk cows to supply that amount of butter. Small farmers can do it and quickly but they need to be set free and encouraged. Plus there needs to be a return to small, localized egg and milk handling facilities with whole new approaches to storage and delivery. Fantastic opportunity with messy risks. The best outcomes are exciting to imagine but they could lead to nasty manifestations of greed as the unscrupulous rise to the occasion and bend rules to supply the demand. Whose to say whether the time calls for more or less regulation? LRM
“The living chick in the shell has known no other world. Through the wall comes a whiteness, but he does not know it is light. Yet he taps at the white wall, not knowing why. Lightning strikes his heart; the shell breaks open.” –Mary Renault, The Persian Boy
ALL OF LIFE OFFERS SEDUCTIONS, and a subtle balance between green leaves and bright fruit. As fall approaches leaves fade and shrivel as if to let the fruit shine through, garner the last of the sun unimpeded. Green leaves and new growth have reached as far and held on as long as they can. Now ongoing life depends on the theft of a succulent meal on the fly, the allure of the ripening seed in disguise, that seems to offer itself. PH
November 5, 2012 Dividing By Zero: Brazil Uses Environmental Tragedy to Force Amazonian Small Farmers Off the Land
National Public Radio’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in her article today entitled In The Amazon’s Fire Season, ‘You Either Burn or You Starve’. exposes Brazilian government’s spurious concern over the polluting effects of field and forest burning and how it is used to penalize small farmers. Unable to pay fines or survive, the limited resource landowners are forced to turn their holdings over to large industrial scale operations. Seems there is not the will to find alternatives so net losses to the environment and biological diversity are guaranteed to expand. With some applied creative thinking those small farmers could become the best tool to protecting remaining rainforest. LRM
November 3, 2015 Maremmas, LIttle Penguins and Swampy Marsh.
NY Times writer Austin Ramzy today offered a bright example of the intelligence of small-scale farmers in the article entitled Australian Deploys Sheepdogs to Save a Penguin Colony. Foxes, imported years ago to feed Brit passion for fox hunting, have flourished down under. When it was discovered that they were eating LIttle penguins to the point of near extinction it took a local chicken farmer named Swampy Marsh to come up with the idea of using predator control dogs, specifically Maremmas, to protect the little flightless birds. Seems Marsh’s free range chickens were being picked off until he employed the dogs and now the problem has vanished. The LIttle Penguin numbers had followed to below 10 before the authorities took Swampy’s suggestion to heart now the little bird’s numbers on Middle Island have rebounded to 150. Small Farmers saving life on the planet one silly little idea at a time. LRM
Nov. 2, 2015 They Can’t See the Prejudice Cuz the Forest is Full of Expensive Confusion
(Italics ours) If we can agree that industrial agriculture and the scale it embraces is anethema to a safe culture of farming then why should we, as small farmers, be coerced to comply with industry-accepted food safety standards? Don’t we subscribe to and comply with a much higher standard? It is like asking that we as farmers comply with industry-accepted mining practices?
The Wallace Center at Winrock International (a good and valued entity) together with FoodLogiQ announced a partnership today to support the recently expanded U.S. Department of Agriculture GroupGAP program. The federal program, officially announced nationally last month at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit, works to support small growers to become compliant with industry-accepted food safety standards.
Under the traditional “Good Agricultural Practices” – or GAP – programs, the USDA audits individual farms, but this process can be time consuming and costly for many small-to-medium sized farms. And with the increasing demand for locally sourced food, these growers have an amazing opportunity to expand their business – assuming they can become compliant with industry food safety standards.
(So, once again we’re being told that if we toe the industrial-line we as small farmers might get a piece of the pie. Smelly suppositions there, coated in questionable outcome. LRM)
11/1/15 Venezuelan Protection Racket for Food Back Fires.
In Venezuela, government supermarkets sell price-controlled food making it far cheaper than private stores. But people are allowed in state-run supermarkets just two days per week, based on their ID card numbers. And the food supply is spotty and irregular forcing families to look to the black market hucksters to survive. The system was designed to prevent shoppers from buying more than they need and then reselling goods on the black market at a huge markup. Seems it has back-fired. LRM
October 30, 2015 The Little Guy Now Can Invest in Stocks and Help to Fund Farms.
The Security and Exchange Commission, responsible for governing the stock markets, issued rules today allowing small companies to court small investors. Restrictions from the 1930’s required that only those people with $1million in net worth, or annual income of $200,000 plus, were allowed to invest in start-ups. This is a major shift and should help small farms and small farm related enterprises. We say it’s about time. SFJ
“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”–Mahatma Gandhi
October 26, 2015 Choosing Butter Bounces All Round the Farm Market Landscape; Harbinger
I may have found the answer to why that feedlot west of Twin Falls Idaho last June was full of Jersey cows instead of the Holsteins that other dairy feedlots have. I think the answer comes with the fact that MacDonalds recently announced that they are switching from margarine to butter in all their products—which means MacDonalds will be buying five or six hundred million more pounds of milk per year, according to an article in the New Yorker online magazine. Somebody at that factory dairy operation knew that those brown cows have higher butterfat in their milk. And a nice herd of Holsteins might have gotten sold at a discount. PH
October 24, 2015 Bad Day for Bacon turns out to be Egg on the Face for New York Times plus National Public Radio and a Wormy Apple for Journalism.
The World Health Organization, in an effort to get some limelight and attract grant funds, releases wishy washy findings on the correlation between processed meats and colon cancer (kinda like saying “Hey, dirty motor oil may cause cancer” or “there might be too much Mercury in that there fish”) Questions: 1. Who funded the research that resulted in these kinda-sorta findings? 2. Precisely what you talking about when you say ‘processed meat’? 3. What on earth are you talking about when you say you don’t know what the effect might be from direct flame cooking? And the sophomoric news media should be ashamed of themselves for the way they took this hesitant statement from WHO and made it into a definitive, declarative, condemnation. A well-constructed sentence should never be allowed to excuse poor journalism. As for red meat: if you so choose, eat grass-fed and know the person who turns your meat into sausage, or corned beef, or jerky, or bacon, or cured meats of any kind. If you trust what they do, support them. Demand that no antibiotics, growth hormones or synthetics be fed to the animals before slaughter. Insist on humane slaughter. And have someone or company that you trust do all the processing of your meats. It is our belief that it is not the meat itself which might be unsafe, it is the handling. LRM
“Happy the man who most resembles the animals, for he is effortlessly what
the rest of us only are by hard work; for he knows the way home, which the
rest of us can reach only through byways of fiction and hazy return routes;
for he is rooted like a tree, forming part of the landscape and therefore of
beauty, while we are but myths who cross the stage, walk-ons of futility and
oblivion dressed in real-life costumes.” from the “Book of Disquiet” by Fernando Pessoa