Update: Aug. 4, 2009: National Organic Coalition letter sheds light on how the bill affects small direct-sell farmers and processors. Read the letter.
July 30, 2009: H.R. 2749 Passed with amendments. Read the text of the bill and ammendments.
It's not too late to influence the final law. The senate must now consider the legislation and will likely offer its own version. This is the time to contact your Senators to urge them to insert language that exempts small farmers and producers selling to local markets. See Our Position Statement for Farmers' Market Management Network of Ohio
Here is what others had to say about the House vote on 7/30/09:
Their related story from Wednesday July 29th:
On Wednesday, July 29th Congress voted on H.R. 2749, but if failed to get the super-majority required under a suspension of the rules by 6 votes. It will likely go up before a vote again today Thursday, July 30th under regular majority vote rules. This means it will be open for debate and amendments. Some reports claim that NAIS (National Animal Identification System) was incorporated into the bill. The bill does include some track back requirements for food.
CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE and recommend more protections for small farmers. Urge your congressman to add more protections for small farmers and producers before it passes. See Our Position Statement for Farmers' Market Management Network of Ohio
*/It's easy to call./ *Please call or fax your Representative's office and ask to speak with the aide that works on agriculture. If you don't know your Representative's name, please click here http://www.house.gov/ <http://e2ma.net/go/6502186187/208001905/208074447/13831/goto:http://www.house.gov/> and enter your zip code in the top left-hand corner of the screen. Then call the Capitol Switchboard and ask to be directly connected to your Representative's office: 202-224-3121.
*/The message is simple. /*"I am a constituent of Representative___________ and I am calling to ask him/her to include more exemptions for small farmers and support the Kaptur-Farr proposal to HR 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009. I am also asking him/her to vote against HR 2749 unless the proposals included in the Kaptur-Farr letter are included in the final bill."
See how your representative voted:
*There is no question: our food system needs to be safer.* But Congress is currently debating _food safety legislation_ (Food Safety Enhancement Act - H.R. 2749) that could hinder beginning, sustainable, and organic farmers' access to markets, require expensive fees, and lead to the dismantling of important conservation practices and wildlife habitat.
The House Agriculture Committee majority Tuesday concluded negotiations with the sponsors of HR 2749 that secured one of the changes proposed in the Kaptur-Farr et al request - namely, a greater role for USDA in all the farm-related portions of the bill. That was helpful as far as it went, but it did not directly address other critical concerns.
Please see the background section below for more information
On June 17, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009. While the bill did incorporate some important changes proposed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and National Organic Coalition, HR 2749 retains a flat $500 registration fee per facility, thus failing to incorporate a scaled fee system. This means that a small processor (even farmers doing on-farm value-added processing if selling mostly wholesale) would pay the same annual fee as a facility run by Tyson, ADM, or any other large food manufacturer.
The bill also requires farms to do extensive and expensive electronic tracing even if they only sell their own unprocessed products in the wholesale market. In addition, the bill does not specify the positive role that conservation practices can play to address food safety concerns, and also fails to provide guidance so that new food safety standards are harmonized with those specified in the Organic Foods Production Act.
As of Monday July 27, the House Agriculture Committee members have concluded their negotiations with the Energy and Commerce Committee that resulted in some positive changes to the Manager's Amendment--including increased coordination between USDA and FDA and an exemption for grain and hay farmers from full-scale electronic traceability requirements--these still do no substantively address the concerns of the sustainable and organic agriculture communities.
Urge your congressman to add more protections for small farmers and producers.