June 8, 2011
In late April, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) issued a proposed national food safety rule for leafy greens. Structured as a marketing agreement – a legal tool normally used for achieving orderly marketing and promotion of particular commodities – the AMS food safety rule covers only leafy greens (spinach, lettuce, and cabbage). It will subject farmers who market to a seller, processor, packer, wholesaler, or distributor that has signed the agreement to food safety regulations and audits conducted by the AMS inspection service.
Last year, the NSAC Food Safety Task Force won scale and practice appropriate alternative compliance measures for small and mid-sized farmers in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). FSMA will impose it’s own set of food safety rules for leafy greens and be administered by the FDA. Unlike the FSMA, however, the AMS rule is a one-size-fits-all rule best suited to industrial agriculture and not surprisingly, it’s being pushed by the biggest players in the leafy green industry.
AMS is accepting comments on the rule through July 28th. To submit your own comment, read our alert.
Comments in opposition are rolling in:
A consumer from Michigan said, “I am very concerned that the NLGMA will place undue burdens on small-scale producers and handlers. One-size-fits-all regulations (your so-called “uniform baseline of regulation”) intended for mechanical and machine harvesting on a large scale will not translate well for small-scale producers and handlers. If the final rule is issued, I hope that it will include alternative compliance measures for small and mid-sized producers and processors that adequately address the complexity of local and regional markets and do not place disproportionate financial and regulatory burdens on small farmers.”
A Farmer from Connecticut said, “As a small farmer I am disturbed by the lack of representation and protection of small to mid-size growers. This rule would give large growers an even greater advantage by pushing small growers out of the market with “regulations” that they cannot afford to comply with and remain in business. If this already duplicative rule moves forward it should contain the same provisions as the Food Safety Modernization Act. Please let the FDA handle food safety and do NOT let big ag and big money make the rules.”
A farmer from Maine said, “There is no scientific expertise within AMS to determine food safety issues. I will rely solely on FDA requirements and do not need or want the interference of agricultural lobbying groups and special interest growers to dictate how I grow and market my produce. This additional layer of outside control over my small operation provides no benefit to anyone – not to me as a grower or to my customers – except to the large conglomerates that feel the need to dictate market controls to their specific interest and benefit.”
A Farmer from Ohio said, “Just last week, our state ag inspector made his unannounced visit to our small farm. Last fall, the FDA inspector visited also. In a few weeks our organic inspector will arrive with his/her own set of standards. Our family, and the families of our ten employees all eat what we produce. What other set of criteria could be devised that would make things any safer? …From the literature I have read, it is only the large companies with mega-fields of monoculture who have a problem with food safety. Maybe there’s a lesson there. Please butt out and tend to the marketing concerns.”
This rule is nothing more than an end run around the hard won provisions in the FSMA to ensure food safety without shutting small and mid-sized farmers out of the growing local and regional food markets. Please submit your comment. Tell AMS to withdraw this unnecessary and confusing rule.