Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Write your Congress Critters

Typically, the Co-op Blog doesn't comment on political issues; we generally don't want to present any kind of bias viewpoint. Local and Sustainable Food isn't a party issue - so bias wouldn't be necessary.

In this case, there's an unusual situation. The House currently has a bill sitting in the House Committee on Agriculture (HR 875) which regulates food safety, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009. Undoubtedly, this title was chosen so that we can all feel safer about our peanut butter.

The bill, however, dictates significant new powers to the Federal Government to regulate our food system. While this is probably good in some cases - like the aforementioned peanut butter - it can have a detrimental effect on our small-scale, local growers.

I would highly recommend that you read the text of the bill, over at

The bill regulates food processing facilities (like slaughterhouses, packaging plants, and warehouses), and many of these regulations may be acceptable.

However, the bill also regulates food production facilities - which it defines as "any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation" - Section 3, Paragraph 14.

Section 206 of the bill is the specific regulation on Food Production Facilities, where it defines the powers of the Federal Government to regulate the use of fertilizers, nutrients, packaging, etc.

It does not, however, give details of the kinds of fertilizers that would be regulated, or possibly required, for food production. It also doesn't specify exemptions for small-scale farms. It puts several new regulations on safety practice documentation.

The letter of this law concerns me. Its intent is noble, I'm sure - we all want our food to be safe. But, you shouldn't need to employ a lawyer and a science team to be allowed to grow and sell carrots. I urge you to take a look at the bill. You can coment on it at, or better yet - write Rep. Mark Schauer from Michigan, our representative on the House Committee of Agriculture.

At a minimum, I think there are some serious questions about this bill. Read it and let us know what you think!

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