Proposed Amendments Slowing Food Safety Legislation in Congress

June 2nd, 2010

[This Action Alert is Over]

Still Time for you to Act

Cornucopia, the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, and other groups have sent out several alerts regarding the food safety bills in Congress. We are continuing to monitor the situation with S. 510, the Senate’s version of the bill.

As written, this bill would impose extremely burdensome and unnecessary requirements on the thousands of small farmers and food processors who are producing safe, nutrient-dense foods for their local communities. It’s critical that the bill be amended or stopped!

The bill’s progress has been slowed by controversial proposed amendments. The first controversy is over Senator Tester’s (D-MT) proposed amendment, that we strongly support, and that would exempt small-scale processors and direct-marketing farmers from the most onerous requirements.

Senator Hagan (D-NC) is co-sponsoring the Tester amendment, which is critical to the continued vitality of the local foods movement. Over 150 organizations have signed a letter of support for these amendments, posted at http://farmandranchfreedom.org/sff/Amend-S510-May-25.pdf

Another major source of controversy is Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) proposal to ban Bisphenol A (BPA) from baby bottles and other food and drink containers. Studies have shown that BPA can migrate from can linings into food, disrupting the endocrine system with many potential health consequences. Several industrial food organizations have threatened to withdraw their support for S. 510 if the BPA amendment is included.

There’s also word that Senator Dorgan (D-ND) may introduce an amendment to allow drug re-importation from foreign countries, creating more controversy.

All of these developments have slowed the bill down and pose barriers to its passage. The Senate may vote on the bill this month, but it’s not certain. We must use this time to build more support for the Tester-Hagan amendments!

TAKE ACTION

Here are three actions you can take to protect local foods and farms:

1) Contact your U.S. Senators (even if you have called before), and ask to speak with the staff person who handles food safety. Ask for them to co-sponsor the Tester-Hagan amendment to S. 510. Please circle back to let us know what the response is.

2) Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Keep it short (150 words or less). Here are a few talking points:

A) One size does not fit all. Virtually all of the well-publicized incidents of contamination in recent years occurred in industrialized food supply chains that span national and even international boundaries. Imposing an industrial-style regulatory framework on local farmers and food producers is unnecessary, unfair, and counterproductive.

B) Local and state governments have well-established programs to protect public health. In most areas of the country they are already working with small producers to develop practical guidelines that are appropriately scaled to the level of risk in a direct-to-consumer transaction. Local regulation is more than enough for local foods.

C) Explain briefly how the proposed law would impact your farm, your farmers market or your cooperative — and if you are a consumer, your access to authentic food. Make it personal to you and your community!

D) Conclude by calling for your Senators to support the Tester-Hagan amendments. It helps to mentioned their names (ex: “I urge Senators Cornyn and Hutchison to co-sponsor these important amendments.”), to catch their staff’s attention.

3) Get your local newspaper to publish an editorial in support of the Tester-Hagan amendments. Here are some strategies that can help:

A) Approach the editorial page editor or editorial board and ask for a meeting to discuss concerns about how the Federal Food Safety Bill will impact small local food businesses and farmers market vendors. If an in-person meeting won’t work, then set up a phone call and email them materials ahead of time.

B) Come prepared with materials, including the sign on letter and other talking points. Additional resources are posted at http://farmandranchfreedom.org/food_safety_bills_09.

Thank you for all your hard work on this!

- Judith McGeary
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance

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