Hailed as the most sweeping overhaul of farm and food policy since the Great Depression, many fear the law will actually make our food supply less safe – not to mention sterile – by regulating small, organic farmers out of business and leaving it in the hands of a few mega farmers and processors.
Founder of Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance Judith McGeary shared her concerns about the federal Food and Drug Administration’s first draft of the “Produce Safety” and “Preventative Controls for Human Food” rules in a Food Riot Radio interview earlier this year. Despite thousands of comments from concerned stakeholders over the last ten months, the rules haven’t got any better.
While submitting our comments probably won’t stop the train wreck, we can’t let food safety “modernization” go into effect without putting up a fight. If you thought the government taking control of our “health”care was bad, imagine what it’ll be like when they take over our farms. People should be fighting this harder than they fought Obamacare.
Extinction of small, local farms
The cost of compliance with the new food safety law is high, so high even the FDA admits it expects some small farmers to go out of business. While the very smallest farms – those generating less than $500,000 in annual revenues – will be exempt from some of the most burdensome regulatory requirements, they are not fully exempt from the new food safety rules.
The small farm “exemptions” are not helpful for a few reasons.
First, they only apply to very, very small farms. While $500,000 may sound like a lot of money, keep in mind we’re talking about revenues or sales – not the farmer’s profit or income. The average farmer’s net income is about 10 percent of his sales. That means a farmer with a household income of as little as $50,000 would most likely have to comply with the full-load of regulations, which were supposedly designed for mega farms and food processors.
Second, even these very, very small farms are not fully exempt. The FDA admits that farmers with revenues under $500,000 will spend 4-6 percent of their revenue complying with a smaller set of regulations. Since their average total net income is only about 10 percent of their revenues, small farmers will likely spend over half of their profits on regulatory compliance costs.
Third, the exemption granted to very, very small farms can be revoked at any time if the FDA suspects there is a food safety problem on the farm, and the agency has to show no evidence or proof for its suspicion.
On top of the cost in dollars, the law will cost farmers time. Farmers, especially small farmers who can’t afford legal counsel, don’t have time to mull through and comply with 1200 pages of new rules and regulations, many of which are vague and poorly written. Tracking the origin and destination of every crop sold, for example, isn’t going to benefit the farmer or the consumer of local foods.
Sterile soil, sterile food
According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the rules make it “nearly impossible to use natural fertilizers like manure and compost. Farmers will be pushed to use chemicals instead of natural fertilizers.”
“The FDA seems to be scared of anything that was ever part of an animal. If you don’t follow their instructions to the letter, which includes extensive documentation of how the compost was made, you have to treat compost — including worm castings — as if it were raw animal manure and wait 9 months in between putting the compost down and harvesting the crop. In practice, this is a death knell for the use of many types of compost, which are vital to growing food sustainably,” McGeary said.
What does all this mean for consumers? Dead, lifeless food made of synthetic nutrients.
So, if you’re concerned about local, sustainable food, support The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and submit comments through its website.
Or, if you want to go right into the belly of the beast, go to Regulations.gov and leave a comment there. But beware – it looks like the website may be run by the same people who run Healthcare.gov, as both are having technical difficulties right now. Regulations.gov has crashed three times in the past week, which may be a good thing, because, let’s be honest, the longer the federal government is delayed, the better.