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S510 pro and con

RL calls, so I've got no time for anything long form. But we need to be doing catch up on S510, and the Tester Amendment*, and Grist looks like an excellent starting point.

On the one hand, Tom Philpott:

Today, thousands of small farms and food purveyors are building out alternative food systems rooted in community development and ecological sustainability, not just profit. I can testify firsthand that they are economically fragile, as they (unlike the dominant food system) operate without government support or subsidy. Without the Tester amendment, S. 510 could end up only slightly reining in the ruinous practices of large players while clobbering these alternative food networks. That would be disastrous.

On the other, Russell Libby:

Yes, S. 510 will hinder small farmers. The Tester amendment will make a big difference. So far, however, I still lean toward supporting S. 510, because I'm worried about the regulatory direction of FDA absent Congressional direction.

FDA is prepared to issue produce safety regulations next spring. If S. 510 is passed, and directs FDA to be sensitive to the needs of small farmers, organic farmers, wildlife, and more, that at least gives us grounds for argument in the regulatory process.

This is just one step in a continuing political debate about the role of the states versus the federal government, and, more to the point, about the importance of a decentralized food system versus one where only a few suppliers distribute to only a few buyers.

All centralized systems tend to support other centralized systems. That's the reality of the scale at which Washington, and FDA, work. It's up to all of us to develop clear, workable alternatives that we can use as our counterarguments. Farmers are not ignoring food safety -- they are eating the same food they are selling their customers. We need to push to develop the decentralized systems that both work for farmers and provide the basic assurances that everyone wants.

An excellent article, "serious" in the best and truest sense of the word. Read it all and discuss! The entire series is here.

NOTE * I could really use a summary of the state of play, and so, I think, could many others. The Ds have apparently punted on this 'til after Thanksgiving.

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Submitted by Elliott Lake on

and do not have a clue what farming/producing food for sale locally entails. They need to see that local food production is DIFFERENT from national-scale. When I buy potatoes from Dave, I know I got them from Dave, from his farm. No paper trail needed to traceback. Same with eggs from Barb. The paperwork, and safety methods (HACCP & Good Management Practices) are basically impossible for the smallest farmers: they include building and getting certified your own commercial kitchen, a full time records handler, electronic submittal of records for each batch, etc. Note that all the outbreaks that have made people so very sick in this country come from facilities that already have all this.

Think about that again. Farmers markets aren't spreading e coli and listeria to millions.

The Tester Amendment, the Minnesota Pickle Bill (don't have the link, sorry, but it should be must reading for small farmers/producers/supporters of local food), and this year's Michigan legislation are reasonable answers to this problem.

Submitted by hipparchia on

Note that all the outbreaks that have made people so very sick in this country come from facilities that already have all this.

Submitted by Elliott Lake on

they require small, non-hazardous operations to cease rather than having to apply brain cells. Case in point: in my state, now it is illegal to sell herb vinegars made on the farm with fresh organically grown herbs and commercially made vinegar---not because of any danger (vinegar's pH preventing microbial growth except acetobacter, mother of vinegar, which is harmless, duh)-------but because by making the herbed vinegar you are "processing" it, which magically means it has to be done in a certified kitchen. Same with dried herbs; you can cut the plant off and hang the whole plant to dry, transport it to market (*insert massive eye roll here*) and sell that------but you cannot strip the leaves off the stems and bag those for sale, because that makes it processed, and you cannot do that in a home kitchen.

But a person with 299 chickens can sell eggs to the public without an inspection.

As a person who nearly died from salmonella, contracted from chicks at the local granary as a child, I tend to believe uninspected eggs might be more dangerous than a jar full of dried sage leaves.

The way the regs are made, and enforced, is political (not party-political, but influence-political). And as the state here loses revenue, and cuts employees, they will do whatever it takes to lessen the workload (blanket prohibitions vs inspectors or regulators making decisions).