September 19, 2014
FDA’s Revised Draft Food Safety Rules for Farms Responsive to NSAC’s Concerns
Contact: Sophia Kruszewski, 202-547-5754, firstname.lastname@example.org
September 19, 2014, Washington, D.C. – Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued revised proposed regulations aimed at ensuring a safe food supply under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). FDA is inviting a new round of public comments to respond to its revised language on several key provisions with significant implications for farmers and food businesses.
“FSMA represents a major change to our farm and food system, and it is extremely important for FDA to get these regulations right,” said NSAC Policy Specialist Sophia Kruszewski.
FDA’s original proposed regulations, issued in 2013, included several highly problematic requirements that would have put many sustainable and organic farmers out of business, dampened the growth of local food systems and innovative supply chains, and undermined efforts to conserve critical natural resources. In response, NSAC and the sustainable agriculture community undertook an extensive public outreach and education campaign on the proposed rules, resulting in thousands of comments to FDA from concerned farmers, food entrepreneurs, and consumers.
In large part due to that comment campaign last year, FDA announced that it would reexamine several critical areas of the FSMA proposed rules that have major potential impacts for sustainable farming, which are included in the revised language released today.
“We applaud FDA for listening to our concerns regarding the original proposed rules and for recognizing that a second draft was necessary,” Kruszewski said. “These rules must not only ensure a safe food supply, but also that family farms can thrive and that consumers can access foods that are safe, healthy, and sustainably produced, including fresh food from local producers.”
When writing FSMA, Congress intended that the regulations work for small businesses and diverse sectors of American agriculture. Congress rejected a one-size-fits-all approach, and took several steps to guarantee that the new rules do not put small and mid-sized family farms, sustainable and organic farms, and local food businesses out of business.
To that end, NSAC is reviewing the revised language focused on the following key issues:
NSAC will undertake a thorough review of the revised language, and will provide more insight and reaction in the near future. We are cautiously optimistic, based on summary information from the agency, that some of our concerns have been addressed. Kruszewski offered the following initial comments, which will be expanded upon after we are able to read the full re-proposal:
“FDA’s revised definitions of ‘farm’ and activities that happen on farms should be a significant improvement from the original draft. We commend FDA for clarifying that activities that happen on a farm – like packing and holding produce – are treated the same whether the produce was grown on that farm or a neighboring farm.
“We are pleased that FDA is proposing language to avoid negative impacts to on-farm conservation and wildlife habitat protection, which have been a major problem with previous produce safety standards.
“We are also pleased that FDA is reconsidering the interval for the use of compost, and is proposing to adopt the 0-day interval between the safe application of compost to a field and harvest, consistent with the National Organic Program standards.
“FDA’s responsiveness to our original concerns – evidenced by the decision to undertake a second set of proposals – is encouraging, and NSAC looks forward to continuing to work with FDA as the rulemaking process continues. It is critical that the final regulations help facilitate sustainable food and agriculture systems, and we look forward to participating in the new public comment period this fall to ensure this is so.”
The new proposed rules will undoubtedly require significant public input to ensure final rules that are fully supportive of sustainable agriculture. NSAC will continue to work not only with FDA, but also with other farm groups and with concerned Members of Congress to ensure that the final rules are finalized and implemented in a way that supports a flexible, scale- and supply-chain appropriate framework that supports the growth and success of a more sustainable food and agriculture system.
Once published in the Federal Register, farmers, organizations, and the public will have the opportunity to weigh in on the rules for 75 days. NSAC will issue regular updates via our FSMA Action Center and email list as we analyze the rules’ impact on sustainable farm and food systems.
NSAC is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to support the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities.