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Local Food Amendment Advances in Senate

November 19, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

When he’s not in Washington, Sen. Jon Tester [D, MT] operates a small-scale grain farm in Montanta, so he’s sympathetic to concerns that the food safety bill could unfairly burden small farms while trying to address safety concerns that are almost exclusive caused by large industrial food production plants. Yesterday he struck a deal with Senate leadership to have his amendment protecting small and local food companies rolled into the bill via the manager’s amendment. Read the summary from Tester’s office below and see if you this does enough to protect local food production:

Retail Food Establishments:

In the 2002 Bioterrorism Act, Congress required that all facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food must register with FDA, but it exempted from that requirement “retail food establishments.” FDA defined the term at 21 CFR 1.227(b)(11). For purposes of the definition, the Tester amendment would require FDA to clarify that “direct sales” of food to consumers includes sales that occur other than where the food was manufactured, such as at a roadside stand or farmers’ market.

Qualified Exemptions:

-Facilities:

(1) Food facilities would qualify for an exemption from the preventive control/HACCP provisions in section 103 of S. 510 under certain conditions:

  • they are either a “very small business” as defined by FDA in rulemaking; or
  • the average annual monetary value of all food sold by the facility during the previous 3 year period was less than $500,000, but only so long as the majority of the food sold by that facility was sold directly to consumers, restaurants, or grocery stores (as opposed to 3rd party food brokers) and were in the same state where the facility sold the food or within 275 miles of the facility.

(2) Facilities that qualify would be exempt from the preventive control/HACCP provisions in S. 510, but would still have to comply with one of the following:

  • They would have to demonstrate that they have identified potential hazards and are implementing preventive controls to address the hazards, or
  • they would have to demonstrate to FDA that they are in compliance with state or local food safety laws.

(3) Disclosure: Any food sold by a facility that opts for compliance option (2), above, would have to prominently and conspicuously provide the name and address of the facility that produced it on a food packaging label, or at the point of purchase, as appropriate.

(4) Study: FDA would have to conduct a study of the food processing sector to help inform the definition of what it means to be a “very small” facility for purposes of the exemption above.

-Farms:

(1) Farms would qualify for an exemption from the produce safety standards in section 105 of S. 510 if, during the previous 3 year period, the average monetary value of the food they sold was less than $500,000, but only so long as the majority of sales were to consumers, restaurants, or grocery stores (as opposed to 3rd party food brokers) and were in the same state where the farm harvested or produced the food or within 275 miles of the farm.

(1) Any food sold under the exemption would have to have the same disclosure set forth above.

-Limitation:

(1) In the event of an active investigation of a foodborne illness outbreak that is directly linked to a facility or farm exempted under this section, or if the Secretary determines that it is necessary to protect the public health and prevent or mitigate a foodborne illness outbreak based on conduct or conditions associated with a facility or farm that are material to the safety of food, the Secretary may withdraw the exemption provided to such facility under this section. No activities under this limitation expand existing FDA authorities to inspect farms.

By the way, the whole bill is being held up over Sen. Tom Coburn’s [R, OK] attempt to force a vote on an unrelated earmark moratorium amendment. It won’t be voted on now until after the Senate’s Thanksgiving break.

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Comments

  • denialator 11/19/2010 9:20pm

    Supposedly, to address concerns of small-scale farmers: the FDA will gain all the power it needs to shut down family farms on a whim. While family farms face greater scrutiny and increased costs, the government’s Big Agriculture allies will have no problem adjusting to the new rules.

    In these tough economic times, S. 510 will drive up the costs of food production by adding more layers of government interference. Like Cap and Tax, which will guarantee higher energy bills, S.510 will ensure you pay more to meet an essential need.

    We know Congress won’t be tightening its belt: Section 401 of S. 510 authorizes nearly $1 billion to grow the government’s reach and calls for over 17,000 new bureaucrats to be hired through fiscal year 2014 – just for starters.

    Well-intentioned amendments to this rotten bill are not enough to make it anything less than unconstitutional. S.510 – FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is unacceptable in any form.

  • DeborahJBrown 11/20/2010 2:38am

    @denialator – I’m not so familiar with this bill but I’m willing to acknowledge that based on all other areas of government and how they do things… you are likely to be correct and if so why on earth are they making it more difficult for small farms at a time when they claim that small businesses will play a big role in economic recovery? Did they mean that as a result of their own over-governing that the role small farms play will add to the difficulty in recovering from this recession? I smell government greed….

  • Comm_reply
    denialator 11/20/2010 8:07am

    The best explanation for proper understanding is to read the bill. (Obviously, most members of the Congress have not done this.) An example of one major point can be found by following the link referenced below.

    Title IV, Section 401. FUNDING FOR FOOD SAFETY

    Link: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=s111-510&version=rs&nid=t0%3Ars%3A1654

  • Comm_reply
    mizlydia 11/29/2010 6:06am

    I tried that URL and got nowhere… is part of it missing?

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    opencongress moderator thank you for working on 3706 it is greatly appreciated,

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    http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-s3706/comments?comment_id=216679&comment_page=188

    http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-s3706/comments?comment_id=216680&comment_page=188

  • Comm_reply
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    thank you moderator, the changes in the rating system should help a lot.

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