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S510 update

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(See here and here.) This seems to be the state of play on S510:

Some agriculture and food industry groups also have expressed displeasure with concessions made to placate small farmers and food processors. The provision, by Democrats Jon Tester of Montana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina, was folded into the manager’s package Nov. 18; it would exempt from the new regulations small farmers and food facilities with less than $500,000 in annual sales that directly market to consumers in a 275-mile area.

Good. Though I love the idea that under $500,000 is small.

The United Fresh Produce Association and 19 fruit and vegetable groups have warned Senate leaders that they would oppose the bill if it retains that language.

Good! Big Food infected the supply chain, not the little guys!

The House passed its own food safety bill (HR 2749) in July 2009. That bill’s sponsor, Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., was engaged in negotiations on the Senate manager’s language, to clear the way for final action by the House.

I'd really like it if a Michigander would fill us in on what Dingell is up to. Gardening and growing being a big part of the under-the-radar Detroit renaissance...

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koan's picture
Submitted by koan on

Remember that farms have to operate at a minimum economy of scale, or not at all.

For example: A small cap dairy, employing about 6 people killing themselves to keep the doors open selling regular commodity milk, has about 400 head in milk over a year give or take.

That dairy produces about 23100 lbs/ cow / year, or 231 hundredweight/head.

At this years avg price of $15/hundredweight for fluid milk, give or take, that dairy is selling $1.386M in milk every year.

I can tell you that that mid sized dairy with that output is absolutely scraping by on 80 hour weeks and bare minimum labor and expenditure costs just to live on those sales. After feed, land costs, mechanical overhead, tax and rent, fertilizer, labor, veterinary and all the rest of it, dairy is bloody expensive business to run.

You want locally produced organic or pasture fed milk cream or butter in your life? Dont tell dairy farmers that $500k is not small time. A $500k total sales dairy would be milking less than 200 head a year, and the amount of creative marketing 100 hour weeks free family labor legacy land and structures maintenance and damn good luck that small of a dairy is taking to stay afloat month to month, let alone year to year, is lets just say cataclysmically nontrivial.

I havent been involved in this fight and cant speak to what amount of regulatory overhead S510 would put on the scraping-by-organic / pastured dairy segment, but I feel safe in imagining its also nontrivial. I can say that if you want organic local milk and cheese made available to you by surviving local farmers, the $500k limit is probably way too low. $500 sounds like a political face-saving number to me, not one based in really helping producers.

Well quelle surprise of course.

Submitted by lambert on

Not a city boy, really, just impoverished. $500,000 seems as huge to me as a trillion.

Submitted by hipparchia on

yes, it tickles my funny bone too to think of $500,000 as 'small', but our family farm probably falls just below that figure and we are most definitely a small operation.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

I also was a little disturbed by the $500K number in total sales. My guess is that many family farmers (like other capital and labor intensive small businesses) are lucky to make a 10-20% profit in a good year. In those years, they need to save up for the inevitable 10-20% loss in a bad year. So working with high stress and high overhead, they are then lucky (but uncertain) to make a family income of $50,000 (or less on average), before they are treated like big Agra.

What a deal!

And even this crumb is too big for big agra to handle.