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Tag: Tester Amendment

Seeing Michael Pollan speak was on my list of things to do. When it was announced he was coming to Santa Barbara, I marked it on my calendar. But somehow, I got busy. Let’s see, there was a birthday party to plan and a book club dinner to prepare for. By the time I looked up, it was Thursday evening and the event was sold out.  If you know me well, you may have heard this sentence come out of my mouth, “things just tend to work out.” Thursday was a prime example of my life philosophy. I decided to take a chance and go down the Granada Theater early to see if anyone was selling a ticket. The end result? I got a FREE orchestra ticket from the director at my daughter’s school after they had a last minute cancellation.  The bonus? The parking attendant was no longer at the kiosk, so I got free parking too.

The event was billed, An Evening with Michael Pollan in Conversation with Renee Montagne.  The newly remodeled Granada stage featured two oversized, tan leather chairs and a coffee table filled with a mound of whole fruits and vegetables (although from my vantage point, they looked fake). Michael walked onstage with Renee, he in an slim-profile olive suit, her in a black dress ensemble. Renee announced that this would be a casual event; she would ask questions first and then there would be an audience Q&A at the end. The theater has a strict policy against the use of cell phones during any show, so I was forced to take notes on my program in the dark. I did my best to get exact quotes, but some may be slightly off (since I couldn’t read all my own handwriting).
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Late this evening, President Obama signed the Food Safety and Modernization Act (S.510 included in HR 2751 bill). This extremely controversial bill has been debated for almost a year. The new legislation focuses giving the FDA authority to prevent foodborne illnesses instead of just reacting to them. Opponents of the bill worry that the FDA already has too much power and has not demonstrated actions in the best interest of consumers. The bill comes with a sizeable price tag: $1.4 billion over 5 years. The cost alone was enough to cause an uproar, especially amongst conservatives.  Supporters of the bill point to the many recent foodborne illness attacks in recent years and the fact that the FDA’s food safety system has not seen major changes in over 70 years. Here is an overview of what we can expect:

Standards
The FDA will be required to develop new scientific standards for fruit and vegetable producers to use in their growing/harvesting and production. Meat and poultry are not covered under this legislation since it is regulated by the USDA.

Recalls
The bill gives the FDA authority to issue a mandatory recall. Currently, they can only recommend a recall and must
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Today, the US Senate voted in favor of the bipartisan Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510), which passed the Senate by a 73 to 25 vote. The House passed a version of the bill with support from both sides of the political aisle back in July 2009, but was held up in the Senate. The good news is that S.510 was passed with provisions (from the Tester Amendment) to exempt small farms and food producers from the new legislation if they sell directly to consumers and bring in less than $500,000 in annual sales.

There has been a ton of support and opposition for this bill. Some report that this is the end of gardening, saving seeds and it will only be a matter of time before small farms are included under the larger FDA controls of the bill. Opposition comes from the folks at Natural News (they nicknamed it the “Food Tyranny Act”), the Weston A. Price Foundation, and the John Birch Society. Others support the move saying the FDA currently has very little power to actually do anything to prevent or address major food outbreaks. Interestingly, the movement has gained support from very unlikely allies including: Center for Science in the Public Interest, author Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), and author Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation).

The bill now moves back to congress so the former bill and the new bill can be reconciled. All indicators are showing that the newly revised bill will be passed by the House quickly  in an attempt to try to get it completed by the end of the year (before new Congress members take their seats).  Stay tuned…

The Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) has gathered support from both sides of the political aisle. If the Senate passes the measure today or tomorrow, it will go back to the House for a final vote.  All indicators are showing that the bill will likely pass and the major question right now is whether they will pass it with the Tester Amendment or not.  The Tester Amendment essentially exempts small farmers from the new controls if they earn less than $500,000 in annual sales and if they sell directly to consumers, restaurants, or grocery stores (as opposed to 3rd party food brokers). This likely includes the majority of the farmers and food producers you find at your local farmer’s market.

Many argue that FDA should not be given additional control over farms. Others say new regulation is critical to help fight outbreaks such as salmonella and E.coli. Regardless of what side of the fence you are on, it is imperative that the food bill be passed WITH the Tester Amendment to exempt small farms.

CALL TO ACTION: Please call your state senator and let them know that small farms are not the problem with America’s food safety and do not need additional, burdensome regulation. Click here for simple, step-by-step instructions on how to call your senator. It will only take 2 minutes!

Senator Jon Tester sponsored an amendment to the food safety bill (S. 510) to protect small, local food processors and producers. Watch the video to see the reasons why you should support the amendment to S. 510.

Summary of Tester Amendment:

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:

  • Food facilities would qualify for an exemption from the preventive control/HACCP provisions in section 103 of S. 510 under certain conditions: (1) they are either a “very small business” as defined by FDA in rulemaking; or (2) 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.
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Be Food Smart did a story on  The Food Safety Modernization Act (S510) in August. It appears that S510 will be voted on in the Senate as early as Wednesday, Nov. 17. This bill would impose extremely burdensome and unnecessary requirements on the thousands of small farmers and food processors who are producing safe foods for their local communities. If passed, small farms would be subject to similar paperwork, reporting and inspection requirements to that of farms hundreds of times bigger. These requirements could pose such a large hardship on family farms that many could go out of business.  Remember, this could affect virtually everything you buy at your local farmer’s market. Small family farms are not the problem with our country’s food safety!

A key amendment sponsored by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) would exempt small farmers who direct market more than 50% of their products. These famers must have gross sales (direct and non-direct combined) of less than $500,000, and sell to consumers, stores, or restaurants that are in-state or within 400 miles. This amendment is especially important for off-farm retail locations such as farmers markets and CSAs.

Please call your Senators today (most offices have voice mail where you can leave a message) and ask them to support the Tester Amendment on the Food Safety bill.

If you are a farmer this is important to protect your livelihood. If you are a consumer, where will you buy your safe and nutritious food if your local farmers are forced out of business?

How to Take Action:

  1. Go to Congress.org and type in your zip code in the box in the upper right hand corner.
  2. Click on your Senator’s name, and then on the contact tab for their phone number. You can also call the Capitol Switchboard and ask to be directly connected to your Senator’s office: 202-224-3121.
  3. Leave a voice mail message.
  4. Be sure to include your name and phone number.

This is the voice mail message you can leave as recommended by the Cornucopia Institute:

“I am a constituent of Senator___________. I ask that he/she support the Tester Amendment to the food safety bill. The Tester Amendment will exempt the safest, small, owner-operator farms and food facilities and farmers who direct market their products to consumers, stores or restaurants. Food safety legislation should not create inappropriate and costly regulatory barriers to family farms and the growing healthy food movement in the drive to crack down on corporate bad actors. Please support the Tester Amendment and market opportunities for small and mid-sized family farms, and small food processing facilities.”