Local Farmers Need Our Help

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04/05/10



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Background:
An important legislative bill is currently moving through the U.S. Senate that could pose a real threat to our local farmers.

Senate Bill 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, is intended to strengthen federal food safety oversight and enforcement. Unfortunately, the bill’s heavy-handed approach to accomplishing this endangers the continued existence of the small and medium-sized family farms that make up our local and regional food systems.

As currently written, S. 510 would not differentiate between large factory farms that have been implicated in national foodborne illness outbreaks and small local farms that have not. This bill will turn even small farms into FDA-regulated facilities that would need to meet potentially crippling requirements and pay large fees that they could not afford.

In addition, this bill has the potential to destroy local farmers’ efforts to farm sustainably by requiring them to destroy natural wildlife habitat in the vicinity of their farms. Since similar measures went into effect in California’s Monterey County, nearly 90 percent of all farmers surveyed have taken measures to actively discourage or eliminate wildlife, including removal of native vegetation and bodies of water.

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Our Farmers Are Our Food Safety Protection

At the Co-op, we take food safety very seriously. We consider our local farmers to be our safety net when national food recalls occur.

Foodborne illness in produce has occurred when produce was grown in proximity to cattle feedlots (confined animal feeding operations or CAFOs) that produce run-off laden with dangerous bacteria or when the produce was watered with contaminated water. The spread of foodborne illness was then exacerbated by the practice of co-mingling produce from hundreds of farms and putting it into packages. The more a product is handled and processed, the more opportunities exist for contamination.

In 2006, when the Co-op was alerted to a nationwide recall of packaged spinach grown and processed in California, our members and shoppers continued to purchase locally grown spinach with confidence. When tomatoes and, later, jalapeño peppers were implicated in another national food scare, we had our local producers to fall back on.

We can’t let rules designed to address serious food safety deficiencies in our industrial food system shut down our local suppliers of healthy, safe food.

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What Can You Do?

Call your Senator or Representative or fill out a web-based contact form (see details below).

If by phone, ask to speak to the aide responsible for agriculture. Tell them this bill threatens small family farms and the local economies they support. If the aide is unavailable, leave a brief voice mail message and be sure to include your name and a call-back number.

Send a letter, preferably by fax. Capitol mail delivery is significantly delayed due to heightened security measures, so fax numbers are provided by some senators.

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Want Help with What to Say?

Dear Senator,

Senate Bill 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, is intended to strengthen federal food safety oversight and enforcement. Unfortunately, the bill’s heavy-handed approach to accomplishing this endangers the continued existence of the small and medium-sized family farms that make up our local and regional food systems.

As currently written, S. 510 would not differentiate between large factory farms that have been implicated in national foodborne illness outbreaks and small local farms that have not. As a result, this bill will turn even small farms into FDA-regulated facilities that would need to meet potentially crippling requirements and pay large fees that they could not afford.

Please don’t let rules designed to address serious food safety deficiencies in our industrial food system shut down our local suppliers of healthy, safe food. I urge you to not support S. 510 as written, as it threatens small family farms and the local economies they support.

Thank you.

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