| September 24, 2014

You Spoke; They Listened: FDA’s Second Draft of the Food Safety Rules

AliciaGood news, family farm supporters! Late last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed revised food safety regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). If you joined our Take Action booth at the Farm Aid 2013 concert in Saratoga Springs, NY, you had an important hand in this victory!

The FSMA rules represent a major change to our farm and food system and the first overhaul of our food safety laws since 1938, with major implications for family farmers.

That’s why it’s extremely important for FDA to get it right. FDA’s original proposal, issued in 2013, included 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 common on-farm conservation and stewardship practices. This was in stark contrast to what Congress intended when it rejected a one-size-fits-all approach and instead wanted the regulations to work for diverse sectors of American agriculture.

In response, Farm Aid partnered with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and organizations from across the country in an extensive outreach and education campaign on the proposed rules, resulting in thousands of comments to FDA from concerned farmers, food entrepreneurs and consumers. At the Farm Aid 2013 concert in Saratoga Springs, NY, many of you signed our petition calling on the FDA to get it right.

In large part thanks to people like YOU speaking up, FDA announced that it would go back to the drawing board for several areas of FSMA that threatened farmers.

Last week FDA issued their revised language and initial review of it shows important improvements. Farm Aid is working with our partners to make sure the standards in their second draft:

  • Allow farmers to continue longstanding sustainable practices, like applying compost and manure to their fields for soil fertility, instead of creating a preference for chemical fertilizers;
  • Establish an agricultural water standard that works for farmers of all sizes, different water systems and sources that farmers use, and not create a preference for chemical water treatment;
  • Clarify the FDA definition of a ‘farm’ to reflect the modern reality and ensure farms (especially those that pioneer models in the Good Food Movement) continue growing and thriving without being overregulated by rules designed for large industrial food processing facilities;
  • Avoid negative impacts to on-farm conservation and wildlife habitat protection.

While we are cautiously optimistic that FDA is moving in the right direction, it is critical that the final FSMA regulations reflect a flexible, scale- and supply-chain appropriate framework that supports the growth and success of a more sustainable food and agriculture system.

FDA is inviting a new round of public comments and farmers, organizations and the public will have the opportunity to weigh in on the rules for the next few months. Stay connected with Farm Aid for updates on how you can weigh in and check out NSAC’s FSMA Action Center for updates on the rules’ impact on sustainable farm and food systems.

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