News of the Senate’s dealings with the Food Safety Modernization Act (s. 510) continues to make headlines. Most recently, a new amendment has been added to the bill that will exempt small farmers and producers.
The Tester-Hagan Amendment, introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) who himself is an organic farmer, would make exempt farms from the FDA regulations proposed in the bill that sell directly to consumers, restaurants, or retailers within state lines. It would also apply to producers who sell within 275 miles and make less than $500,000 annually. The exemption would be withdrawn if it is found that the producer is connected to a food-borne illness outbreak.
The reasoning behind the amendment is that small producers lack the resources necessary to comply with the FDA regulations proposed in the bill. According to Michael Pollan, as reported by the Washington Post, consumer groups initially disagreed with the amendment because they say food safety is a risk no matter the size of the producer. Pollan cited a recent e coli scare where a small producer fed into a large wholesale operation.
To appease critics, language in the amendment was modified to shrink the selling radius from 400 to 275 miles. This changes the definition of local as set up in the 2008 Farm Bill.