Tell the Senate committee not to threaten quality organic and local food production

Our food safety system is broken. Industrialized food production gives rise to serious food safety problems, and our government’s ability to regulate corporate agribusiness must be strengthened — without harming small-scale and organic family farmers.

Bills in Congress propose to give more authority to the Food and Drug Administration to regulate for food safety, inspect food processing facilities, and order mandatory recalls. The House passed its own food safety bill in July. The Senate’s bill is in committee and scheduled for a mark-up (committee vote).

Allowing the FDA to crack down on corporate food producers that threaten our citizenry’s health is a step in the right direction — as long as legislation contains protections for small-scale, organic and local food systems. Small farms could be forced out of business by increasing costs for record-keeping, testing and other measures they will not be able to comply with. These are our country’s safest farms — part of the solution, not part of the problem!

Now is the time to contact Senate committee members (especially if one is from your state) that will make changes to the bill. Our message is: Senate Bill 510 must contain protections for small-scale and organic family farms.

Please call as many committee members as you have time for!

Messages for committee members:

1. Regulate farms and food processors based on risk — with organic and local systems as the lowest-risk.

While no farm and processing plant can be completely safe and completely eliminate food safety risks, different production systems carry different levels of risk. Small and medium-sized organic farms are low-risk farms from a food safety point of view, and local food systems are low-risk systems. This fact speaks to a risk-based regulatory approach, particularly given limited federal dollars available for system-wide regulation and the need to prudently target the use of those funds.

Organic farms are already controlling pathogens and improving food safety in various ways that conventional, industrial-scale farms do not. Specifically, food safety regulation for organic and small-scale producers should focus on education and training, not one-size-fits-all food safety standards.

2. Protect organic farmers from conflicting food safety regulations.

Tell your Senator to ensure that the bill directs the FDA to integrate any food safety standards with the existing federal organic standards. No farmer should be forced to choose between organic certification and food safety rules, and the two should be streamlined to avoid unnecessary additional burdens and incompatibilities.

3. Protect wildlife, biodiversity and habitat from misguided food safety regulation.

Likewise, the food safety bill should ensure that FDA food safety standards do not conflict with existing federal conservation, environmental and wildlife standards. Farmers should be encouraged to adopt conservation practices on their farms — in fact, many conservation practices such as vegetated buffer zones and wetland preservation have been shown to reduce the presence of foodborne pathogens on farms.

Take Action Today – Call Senate Committee Members

See the list below for Senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Please call or fax their office, ask to speak with the aide in charge of food safety issues, and share the concerns of the small-scale and organic farming community with them.

List of Senate HELP Committee Members

Senator                 Phone                     Fax

Tom Harkin (IA)              202-224-3254             No fax
Chris Dodd (CT)                202-224-2823      202-224-1083
Barbara Mikulski (MD) 202-224-4654       202-224-8858
Jeff Bingaman (NM)       202-224-5521             No fax
Patty Murray (WA)        202-224-2621       202-224-0238
Jack Reed (RI)                 202-224-4642       202-224-4680
Bernie Sanders (VT)      202-224-5141       202-228-0776
Sherrod Brown (OH)     202-224-2315       202-228-6321
Bob Casey (PA)               202-224-6324       202-228-0604
Kay Hagan (NC)              202-224-6342       202-228-2563
Jeff Merkley (OR)          202-224-3753       202-228-3997
Al Franken (MN)            202-224-5641              No fax
Michael Bennet (CO)     202-224-5852       202-228-5036

Mike Enzi (WY)               202-224-3424       202-228-0359
Judd Gregg (NH)            202-224-3324             No fax
Lamar Alexander (TN) 202-224-4944      202-228-3398
Richard Burr (NC)          202-224-3154       202-228-2981
Johnny Isakson (GA)   202-224-3643       202-228-0724
Orrin Hatch (UT)            202-224-5251       202-224-6331
Pat Roberts (KS)             202-224-4774      202-224-3514
Tom Coburn (OK)           202-224-5754      202-224-6008
Lisa Murkowski (AK)     202-224-6665      202-224-5301

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