Tester Amendment to S.510 included (for now)
Ok, it's very difficult to sort out the information from the disinformation, because like the Patriot Act (and FISA, and TARP), many of the loudest voices against this bill were/are coming from the extreme libertarian right. Luckily, there are some clearly not right-wing sources for information on the bill.
The following comes from the Cornucopia Institute*:
Last night, U.S. Senator Kay R. Hagan (D-NC) and Jon Tester (D-MT) successfully fought for small farmers. An agreement was reached on the Tester-Hagan amendment to the Food Safety Modernization Act, which is currently being considered by the U.S. Senate. The amendment protects small producers from excessive government regulations in the bill.
“This amendment is a critical change to the food safety legislation and will protect our small producers from excessive government red tape,” Hagan said. “Senator Tester and I worked with our colleagues to ensure this amendment’s inclusion in the final food safety bill, and this protection will benefit small farmers across North Carolina. Agriculture is our state’s largest industry, and I am working in the Senate to ensure we can grow jobs in this tough economy.”
Under the Tester-Hagan amendment, small producers will continue to be regulated at the state and local level. The amendment applies to small producers who sell most of their food directly to consumers, local restaurants and retailers within a 275 mile radius, and producers that earn $500,000 or less in annual sales.
Apparently Big Agra is pissed and ginning up support to kill that amendment (which has now been included in the bill):
The measure passed a key procedural hurdle on Wednesday, but also drew the ire of big agriculture groups unhappy over a recent deal to include small farm exemptions.
In a statement yesterday, the United Fresh Produce Association said it was working with its produce-industry allies to build opposition to Montana Senator Jon Tester’s amendment, which it described as “exempting small farms and business operations from basic federal food safety requirements.”
and much more importantly here from Food Safety News via Civil Eats:
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, one of the key groups negotiating for the inclusion of the amendment by Tester (D-MT) and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) to reduce the regulatory burden on small farmers and producers, was very pleased that a compromise was included in the manager’s package late Wednesday.
“While not perfect, the final version of the amendment is something our farmer members can support,” said Ferd Hoefner, NSAC Policy Director. “We congratulate the bill and amendment sponsors on forging a deal,” said Hoefner. “With the inclusion of this amendment and the earlier inclusion of several other critical family farm amendments, we can now urge the Senate to pass the manager’s amendment and the bill and to do it yet this week.”
“We are encouraging Senators to ignore Big Ag’s bluster and to get on with the important business at hand – passing the amendment and the bill to improve food safety,” said Hoefner.
The so-called “bluster” is now coming from some of the biggest names in produce.
So no, concern about this is/was not unwarranted, and the battle to exempt local producers from the expensive procedures needed to ensure Big Agra doesn't poison you with salmonella continues. So yes, continue to call your congress critters to make sure they know where you stand. There is a whole lot more back-room dealing on this coming in the next week or two.
*Mission Statement: Seeking economic justice for the family-scale farming community. Through research, advocacy, and economic development our goal is to empower farmers - partnered with consumers - in support of ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.