The Time To Act Is Now – Oppose Bill S.510 – The Food Safety Modernization Act

Please take a few moments to read the information below regarding S.510 Food Safety Modernization Act. I received this bulletin in my Inbox today, and the time to act is definitely now.

Congress is in recess until September 10th, 2010 and it is urgent that you contact your local representatives and senators to keep this bill from going through and becoming a law.

  • Talk With Your Senators and Congressman in Person!
  • Tell your Senators to Amend or Oppose S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act
  • Tell Your Senators and Congressman to Support USDAs Proposed Rules for Fair Play in Livestock and Poultry Markets

An in-person meeting with your legislators is one of the best ways to make an impact on them. And you dont have to go to DC to do it! Congress is in recess from August 9th through September 10th, which means that the legislators are heading back to their home states and districts to meet with constituents and attend public events. Town hall meetings and other public events are great opportunities to ask questions and to inform policy makers and their staff of your concerns.

Find your legislators’ public meetings schedules by calling their district office. Go to www.Congress.org and type in your zip code. In the column for President & Congress, click on the legislator’s name, and then on the contact tab for the phone number for the district office. Call and request a meeting to talk about food safety and fairness for farmers. If the Senators and/or Congressman do not have time available for an individual meeting, ask their offices for a schedule of any town hall meetings and public events. Let them know you would like a moment to speak to your legislator about food safety and fairness for farmers at one of the events.

FOOD SAFETY BILL

S.510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, continues to be delayed. But pressure from consumer groups also continues to mount, and there will be yet another push to bring the bill to a vote when the Senate reconvenes in September. Even if you have already called and written about this bill, talking with your Senators during the August recess can make a difference!

S. 510 poses a very serious threat to the local, nutrient-dense food movement. Farmers would be subject to FDA regulation of how they grow and raise their crops, while processed food producers (including people making products such as cheese and kombucha) would be buried in the red tape of HACCP plans. The bill does not outlaw backyard gardens or organic methods, but the long-term effect will be to drive local food sources out of business through unnecessary burdensome regulations and deprive consumers of their options to buy healthy foods from producers they know and trust.

Tell your Senators that you want them to amend or oppose S. 510. Senator Tester (D-MT) continues to work on amendments to exempt local and small-scale producers from some of the worst provisions of the bill, and we need your Senators to support this effort!

Over 150 organizations have signed a letter of support for the Tester-Hagan amendments to exempt small-scale and local producers from the more burdensome provisions of the bill. You can borrow some talking points from the letter (posted at http://farmandranchfreedom.org/sff/Amend-S510-June-7 ) or use the ones below:

  1. The major foodborne illness outbreaks and recalls have all been caused by the large, industrial food system. Small, local food producers have not contributed to the highly publicized outbreaks. Yet S. 510 subjects the small, local food system to the same, broad federal regulatory oversight that would apply to the industrial food system.
  2. Increased regulations and record-keeping obligations could destroy small businesses that bring food to local communities. In particular, the reliance on hazard analysis and risk-based preventative controls, a concept similar to HACCP, will harm small food producers. HACCP has already proven to be an overwhelming burden for a significant number of small, regional meat processors across the country. Applying a HACCP-type system to small, local foods processors could drive them out of business, reducing consumers options to buy fresh, local foods.
  3. FDA does not belong on the farm. S. 510 calls for FDA regulation of how farms grow and harvest produce. Given the agencys track record, it is likely that the regulations will discriminate against small, organic, and diversified farms. Although language calling for flexibility may be included, but there are no enforceable limits or protections for small diversified and organic farms from inappropriate and burdensome federal rules.
  4. Food safety and security both come from a diversified, vibrant local food system. Local foods give consumers the choice to buy from producers they know, creating a transparent, accountable food system without federal government oversight. State and local laws, which are often size-specific rather than one-size-fits-all, are more appropriate for local food producers.

You can also get more information about the bill in our earlier action alerts, posted at http://realmilk.comwww.westonaprice.org/action-alerts/2010-alerts.html

SUPPORT FAIR PLAY FOR LIVESTOCK FARMERS

While youre talking with your Senators or at a meeting with your Congressman, ask them to stand with family farmers on fair competition and fair contracts.

Today, a tiny handful of meatpackers and poultry processors dominate the livestock industry, making it hard for an individual farmer or rancher to get a fair deal or equitable price for cattle, hogs, or chickens. Packers are able to use their monopoly-like power to manipulate prices paid to livestock producers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is finally taking action, proposing rules to identify practices that are illegal under the Packers & Stockyards Act. These rules:

  • Prohibit packers from selling livestock to each other
  • Make it easier for ranchers to sue companies accused of using deceptive trade practices or offering unfairly low prices
  • End discrimination against producers based upon size alone
  • Restrict livestock buyers from buying for more than one packer

In addition, the rules contain improvements for contract pork and poultry growers.

The consolidation of the livestock markets in the hands of a few large corporations hurts everyone. Together with bad regulations, consolidation is one of the main reasons it is so hard for small farmers to find local slaughterhouses to process their animals independently. Consolidation also makes it harder to buy and sell animals at fair prices even if the farmer is raising meat for direct sales. Ultimately, all farmers and all consumers are impacted by the control the meat packers exert. So its important that we stand together and support fair markets for family farmers.

Urge your legislators to support the USDA proposed rules that restore competition and contract fairness to livestock and poultry markets. Tell them we need a level playing field for family farmers and ranchers. Ask them to contact USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and let him know they support the proposed rule.

More information:

The Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 makes it unlawful for meat packers and companies that contract with farmers to raise hogs and poultry from engaging in any “unfair, unjustly discriminatory, or deceptive practice or device,” or to “make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage.” But, until now, USDA has never issued the regulations necessary to properly enforce the protections for livestock and poultry farmers. In the 2008 Farm Bill, a majority of the full Congress voted to direct USDA to define these prohibitions and to clarify how the Act should be applied to give individual farmers and ranchers a fair chance when dealing with the large corporate entities that control our nation’s meat and poultry processing.

For more information on how the USDA rules help livestock producers, go to the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) website: http://www.worc.org/Unduepref

For more information on how the USDA rules help poultry producers, go to the Rural Advancement Foundation International USA (RAFI) website: http://www.rafiusa.org/programs/contractag/gipsa2101rules.html

COLORADO MEETING ON CONSOLIDATION OF BEEF INDUSTRY

The USDA and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) are holding hearings around the country on the issue of the lack of competition in livestock and poultry markets and potential anti-trust violations. The hearing on the beef cattle industry will take place in Colorado on Friday, Aug. 27, 2010. The official purpose of this meeting is to provide the DOJ and USDA with information on the state of the cattle industry. Unofficially, the meeting will show the agencies whether cattle producers and consumers demand that the government take immediate, aggressive action to restore competition to the U.S. cattle industry.

If you are within traveling distance, please come! Even if you don’t speak, your attendance at this historic event will help send a powerful message to Washington, D.C.

WHEN: Friday, August 27, 2010, beginning at 8 am MDT

WHERE: Lory Student Center, 1101 Centre Avenue Mall, Fort Collins, Colorado, 80523

MORE INFORMATION: The Department of Justice has a page dedicated to the hearings at http://www.justice.gov/atr/public/workshops/ag2010/index.htm

TRAVEL: Several organizations are coordinating buses to the event and special room rates at a nearby hotel. For more information, please contact jerilynn@worc.org or sam@fwwatch.org

4 Comments

  • August 13, 2010 - 11:41 AM | Permalink

    Thank you for all of this information. I’m posting something on my site about this too.

  • August 13, 2010 - 3:45 PM | Permalink

    In regards to the Food Safety Modernization Act, there is a redundant campaign to derail this bill. It’s main talking points are repeated here and are both inaccurate and misleading. Allow me to explain.

    1. While this bill is designed to address the major contributors to foodborne illness outbreaks (i.e., major food companies), small producers have been at fault for outbreaks. This anti-S. 510 campaign likes to say that direct-marketers and small business should be exempted because they’ve not been at fault. Here are links to RECENT outbreaks attributed to small-scale food processors:

    http://www.idph.state.ia.us/IdphNews/Reader.aspx?id=DD3ABF3B-F50E-4EB3-9D74-D88A15B66035

    http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_15469283

    http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/health/94980484.html

    2. There is much agreement that SMALL-SCALE PRODUCERS ARE AN IMPORTANT PART of a safer food system. That is why this bill REPEATEDLY dictates that special provisions be afforded small businesses so that they are not unduly burdened. The bill calls for a public comment period during which issues such as fees and HACCP requirements will be resolved as they pertain to small producers. Furthermore, HACCP plans are much simpler than opponents of this bill would have you believe. The training can be done online and is quite inexpensive. A business that already has safe practices would only need to fill out a small amount of paperwork. To listen to FARFA, you might be led to believe that a small farmer would be forced to buy a new refrigerator and spend hours every day filling out forms. This is misleading.

    3. Language protecting small and organic farms is ALREADY included.

    4. This bill is explicitly NOT one-size-fits-all. In repeating this claim, FARFA is perpetrating a myth-telling propaganda campaign.

    In urging you to support the Tester amendment, FARFA is playing upon your sympathy for local producers. As a supporter of small farms and local, diversified food systems, I find this offensive. The Tester amendment would exempt businesses well above what is currently defined as a “small farm” by the USDA. Operations twice the size of the current definition would be sneaking in with our real small producers and skirting much needed food safety stopgaps. I implore you to read the actual text of the bill before contacting you Senator, and consider the true nature of the Tester amendment.

    Here is a link to the actual bill: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:S.510:

    Thank you.

  • August 17, 2010 - 6:49 PM | Permalink

    Thank you Raine,for this most important post.This “food safety” bill is really a food slavery bill,which would give the FDA complete control over the growing of all crops. Since the FDA does whatever Big Ag wants,this is a serious threat to all real food.

    I am trying to arrange a meeting with my representatives, but it looks like I will have to settle for a staff member. It is still worth doing.

  • August 19, 2010 - 12:16 PM | Permalink

    Mike – thank you for sharing that information. While I am aware that smaller farms have been implicated in food safety issues, I also know that in order to really understand the mainstream food system and how it works (crookedly, I might add), people who are proponents of this system will stop at nothing to point out and report when small-scale farmers mess up and cause problems. These producers are not following truly sustainable principles because if they were, they would not find themselves in the long list of food recalls that occur on pretty much a weekly (or daily) basis. Unfortunately, mainstream media are pretty clueless about many things, but in particular their ability to decipher who is breaking health and sustainable rules in the food safety realm and who isn’t. When you lump in a small-time farmer who wasn’t following principles of sustainability with all the others who are, it’s just not a real picture of what’s going on. It’s like those people who insist that raw milk is dangerous to consume, but won’t acknowledge the source of the milk, what the cows are eating, etc. and assume it’s all bad – when the reality is, if someone is getting sick from drinking milk it’s almost always because the milk comes from unhealthy cows, period.

    Stanley – I am glad to hear from you once again. I am also in the process of contacting my reps and senators. It’s a process, but one that is worth doing! :)

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