Thursday, April 09, 2009

More on the farm bill

First, to preface this post and to respond to the individual whose comments were so egregious I had to delete them:

Personally, NO, I do not think most of the US food supply is safe. NO, I do not think the government has done a responsible job of managing what involvement it has had with food saftey and regulation. NO, I do not think big agribusiness is absolutely invested in the consumer's well-being. In that, I absolutely agree with the foul-mouthed lout who has bothered to virtually vandalise my blog--we need a big change in the way our food supply is managed, and only the federal government has the resources and the geographical scope to pull it off. It is because I think that way, however, that I want small, local farmers protected. It's why I want my garden protected. What I don't understand is why anyone who shares that perspective is just raring for the government to pass a bill with as many loopholes for abuse as the recent lead-based toy bill. I am not asking them not to pass it. To quote myself, I wrote " As it is written, this bill would be catastrophic to the American people. Provisions must be included to protect the organic farmer and the family gardener." and "Please restrict it to conventional farming, or vote it down." My interest here is not withholding something that could help us all; I have been calling for sustainable agriculture for years, and this could be a giant leap forward in that regard.

If you want to comment here, then by all means comment. I welcome a discussion on this because I am certainly amenable to learning everything I can about this. I will not, however, host cussing, accusations or more death threats. Anyone else who suggests I feed my child peanut butter will likely be getting a real time visit from the PoPo. It's very out in the open on this blog that my child has an anaphylactic food allergy to peanuts. For those of you who need me to write in small words, that means she could die from ingesting peanut of any kind, tainted or otherwise. Living like this for the past seven years, living with constant vigilance about food and where it is sourced, is WHY I am passionate about protecting organics and small farmers. How I get my food, where I get my food is an absolute, literal passion for us.

I want to protect my daughter. I want you to be able to protect your daughter. Unlike the ...person... who posted here today, I am not willing to let Big Brother be the sole director of how that food gets to my plate. That's all. The bill, as written, does more than streamline the governance of food safety. It allows for a single agency to approve what kind of fertilizer, what kind of seed, what kind of record-keeping each farmer uses. At first blush, that sounds fandamntastic-- if you've got a sustainable-minded individual going in. If you have an agency that is sensitive to the cost-load for the organic farmer. I didn't write what I did here in a knee jerk reaction. I have talked to organic farmers here in Washington, and corresponded with CSA farmers from my hometown in South Carolina. The ones I spoke with are very concerned. They have encouraged us to get this into a national discussion, which is what we did. Organic farmers, particularly those who have pursued tilth certification, really shouldn't have anything to worry about, that's true, because their standards typically exceed anything in corporate farming. But the bill doesn't include any such provisos. That's the concern.

Today I received an email forwarded by a local farmers market with a less apprehensive stance towards the law. They're just as much "my team" as the farmers I mention above, and I will post it in its entirety here:

From the Farmers Market Coalition Executive Director (For more information about the Farmers Market Coalition, visit their website: )

Sent: Thursday, March 12, 2009 2:20 PM
Subject: H.R. 875, Food Safety, & Farmers Markets: A Letter from FMC

Dear Fellow Farmers Market Advocate,

In the last few days, there has been much discussion and speculation
surrounding H.R. 875, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, which was
proposed by Representative Rosa DeLauro and 39 other co-sponsors and
currently under review by two house committees. The bill¹s intention is to
centralize most of the current food safety responsibilities of FDA and USDA
into one new agency within the Department of Health and Human Services.
While the bill does not spell out any specific regulations with respect to
food safety, it establishes a new framework of oversight to prevent the
breakout of food-borne illnesses (like the recent cases involving bagged
spinach, peanuts, tainted meat, imported tomatoes, etc.).

Calls to Congresswoman DeLauro¹s office from me and several colleagues have
been met by assurances that she is an advocate for small family farms, and
that the bill¹s intent is to minimize (or eliminate) the impact on such
entities while addressing the challenges posed by a global food supply by
more closely regulating imported food. Based on what we know at this point,
farmers markets are not considered ³food establishments² under Section 3
(13), and would not be subject to inspection as such.

Food production facilities (including farms), may be subject to additional
recordkeeping via a written food safety plan which follow ³good practice
standards² under Section 206(2). There is no language in the bill that would
implement a national animal ID system, or mandate farm inspection. In fact,
the legislation specifies that technical assistance would be provide to
farmers and food establishments that fit the definition of a small business.

There are also no assurances that, given the current economic climate and
the inherent cost of establishing a new administration, this bill will even
survive in its current form or at all. To what degree there may be any
change to current standards (like GAPs), which are now voluntary for most
growers, would be up to the new agency, which is directed to consult with
USDA and state departments of agriculture before enacting any new farm
production and handling standards. FMC believes that any standards designed
to prevent contamination at the farm and market level, whether voluntary or
mandatory, must take into account the cost, time, and ability to implement.
As many realize, a one-size-fits-all policy would ultimately do a disservice
not only to small, biodiverse farms, but to the consumers who value
affordable access to safe, fresh, nutritious food directly from the farmer.

FMC recognizes the importance of food safety not only from a consumer health
perspective, but also to uphold the integrity of farmers markets and
viability of small farms everywhere. Families and individuals across the
country put their faith in the quality, safety, and freshness of farmers
markets every day, and that investment of faith cannot be taken for
granted. Proactive measures to prevent contamination at the farm and market
level are good business. FMC's web site has links to several resources
developed by various states with regard to food safety at farmers markets,
many of which include good recommendations for food storage, handling, and

FMC is working to ensure that strategies to prevent contamination are
science-based, sensitive to scale of production, and friendly to farmers
markets and the farmers they depend on. Recently, the Coalition represented
farmers markets at a national Good Agricultural Practices summit to support
voluntary (rather than mandatory) implementation of the Guide to Minimize
Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, which is
presently undergoing review for updates. We will continue to stay involved
in issues surrounding food safety, and keep you informed of developments
that could impact farmers markets and their producers.


Stacy Miller
Executive Director
Farmers Market Coalition

There's too much at stake here for any of us to adopt a blanket thumbs up or thumbs down approach to something this big. Again, I welcome the discussion, should that come to me, but I won't allow anything that calls for harm to me or my family, or insults or degrades me or the other commenters. I am a citizen of this country, and like it or not, this is part of the process. We're fortunate we have a voice, and I for one intend to use mine.


  1. Big Medicine is already absolved by the federal government for any damages they cause through mass vaccinations; please let's not let them take over our food sources without responsibility!

  2. I just want to say I enjoy your blog and that I have shared it with some of my more main streem friends becouse of it's fair shack on this subject. Most had no idia what could be at stake.

  3. Please allow me to give my corner of the Midwest's opinion on this. I live in a county where the economy has has been solely based on family farming since the first settlers rolled in with their covered wagons in the 1830s. For decades my county in southwest Missouri has been the number one beef producer in the state, and ranks high on the list for dairy production. This doesn't mean that we just put cattle in the pasture and pull them out to send to slaughter, or bring them in twice a day to milk. Many, many farmers also raise their own feed crops in the form of corn, milo, alfalfa, lespedeza, forage soybeans, fescue and other grasses, and various types of forage clover. This bill will affect every aspect of the family owned and operated farm in my part of the country.

    Farming has changed in this area during the last one hundred fifty years or so. There are still families operating on the quarter section (forty acres) of land that their ancestors filed for under the Homestead Act. There are farms that have expanded to one hundred or even more than three hundred acres; but they are still considered "small" family operated farms. They are no different than small family businesses operated in urban areas. As of right now, I know of not one single farmer in my area who isn't greatly concerned by H.R. 875.

    Organic farming in not the norm here. However, it does represent a small percentage of family farm operations in the area.

    The text of H.R. 875 does not benefit the small operator, organic or otherwise. It is designed specifically to benefit large agri-corporations as well as global seed and chemical suppliers. The end result will be a farming industry that is completely dominated by corporations making it virtually impossible for the small operator to exist.

    If food safety is the issue, then this bill makes no sense whatsoever. If the average consumer thinks that a company who unnaturally corrals thousands of animals, exposing them to disease and requiring chemicals to keep them barely healthy is safer then they are sadly mistaken. Compare this scenario to the small farmer who checks his grazing cattle daily and knows when one is missing, or has gone down with illness and can individually treat that one animal. It exposes the food supply on an individual basis verses mass exposure and puts safer meat on the table. Small-town, midwestern Farmer Joe can tell you in an instant if his milk or beef is safe. Agri-corps cannot. Small-town, midwestern Farmer Joe can tell you in an instant where his corn seed came from, and how his crop was grown without accessing a database, or putting you on hold numerous times to find a person in a cubicle in charge of that information. Small operators know their product, they grow it, they live it. It is the blood, sweat, and tears of their lives, and they take great pride in feeding America.

    Do the research on Mad Cow Disease. Do the research on contaminated processed food products. You will find that it wasn't the small farmer who introduced this into the stores. It was the agri-corporations who put this stuff into the food supply. Why on earth would we sit back and put these organizations in complete control of our nation's food supply without some kind of a fight? Why on earth would Americans allow our lawmakers to run millions of small farmers out of business? The affects on an already struggling economy would be disastrous. Why on earth would we allow our lawmakers to destroy a generations-old lifestyle in favor of stock and profit margins and CEO multi-million dollar bonuses with a bill that in no way guarantees safer food.

    H.R. 875 is a bad thing for the American people, and the American food supply.

    J in Missouri