Agrarian Trust

New Regulations Could Hurt Local Food Systems

Land Access is only one of the obstacles facing beginning farmers. Once these young agrarians have found access and financing for land, they enter the maze of barriers that face all small farmers. Public comment is open until November 15th on a recent proposed regulation that could serve as a major barrier for small farmers.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the first major update of federal food safety laws since 1938. It includes new regulations for both facilities that process food and the farms that grow it. These give the FDA a significantly greater scope of power to prevent food safety problems, detect and respond to food safety issues, and improve the safety of imported foods, but does not impact meat, poultry or egg products, which are regulated by the USDA.

New rules could mean big changes to our food systems – so it is important that the Food Safety Modernization Act does not unfairly place extraneous regulations on small family farms and other local food providers. Check out this list of the top 10 problems with FSMA from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition:

Top 10 Problems with FSMA for Farmers and Local Food Businesses

  1. They’re too expensive. The rules could cost farmers over half of their profits and will keep beginners from starting to farm.
  2. They treat farmers unfairly. FDA is claiming broad authority to revoke small farmers’ protections without any proof of a public health threat.
  3. They will reduce access to fresh, healthy food. Local food distributors like food hubs could close, and new food businesses will not launch.
  4. They make it harder for farms to diversify. Grain, dairy, and livestock farmers could be denied access to emerging local food markets.
  5. They will over-regulate local food. The rules could consider farmers markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture programs “manufacturing facilities” subject to additional regulation.
  6. They treat pickles like a dangerous substance. The rules fail to protect a host of low-risk processing activities done by smaller farms and processors.
  7. They make it nearly impossible to use natural fertilizers like manure and compost. Farmers will be pushed to use chemicals instead of natural fertilizers.
  8. They require excessive water testing on farms. Farmers using water from streams and lakes will be required to pay for weekly water tests regardless of risk or cost.
  9. They could harm wildlife and degrade our soil and water. The rules could force farmers to halt safe practices that protect our natural resources and wildlife.
  10. Bonus: there’s at least one good thing about the rules.The rules take an ‘integrated’, not a ‘commodity-specific’ approach – meaning farmers won’t face over 30 separate rules for each kind of fresh produce they grow. FDA needs to keep this good decision in the final rules!

Here is a PDF version of this list with more information about each issue.

It is critical for sustainable farmers and consumers who care about where their food comes from to write comments to FDA about the proposed regulations to ensure that FDA correctly implements FSMA!

Check out the links below from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to learn more about the two rules – and then submit your own comments and stories to the FDA!