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By Ed Yowell, Slow Food USA Northeast Regional Governor

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping reform of the nation’s food safety laws in more than 70 years, was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. Conceived in the wake of a massive recall of E.coli tainted spinach in 2006 and subsequent foodbourne illness related recalls of tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, eggs, and peanut butter, it shook the popular confidence of Americans in our nation’s food supply.

The FSMA aims to ensure that the American food supply is safe by shifting the focus of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations from responding to contamination to preventing it. As a result, the FDA proposed new rules that will have a huge impact on how fresh fruits and vegetables are grown and processed in the United States.

This is a very big deal for farmers and eaters!

While safe food, from field to fork, is a critical concern of responsible farmers and concerned eaters, the FDA’s presently proposed rules will burden unfairly small and mid-scale family, diversified, sustainable and organic, beginning and disadvantaged, and direct distributing and value-adding farmers. These rules threaten their farms’ financial viability and our supply of regionally and sustainably produced, healthful fruits and vegetables.

As currently written, the FDA rules will:

  • Put many farms out of business;
  • Reduce the supply of fresh, local produce in schools and hospitals;
  • Push farmers to destroy wildlife habitat; and
  • Increase the use of chemical – rather than natural – fertilizers.

Right now, we have a chance to tell the FDA we, as responsible farmers and concerned eaters, believe that good, clean food is safe food and that this bias against small and mid-scale family farmers is unacceptable.

We must tell the FDA that the new food safety rules must:

  • Allow farmers to use sustainable farming practices, including those encouraged by existing federal organic standards and conservation programs;
  • Ensure that diversified and innovative farms – particularly those pioneering models for increased access to healthy, local foods – continue to grow and thrive without being stifled;
  • Provide options that treat family farms fairly, with due process and without creating excessive costs.

The proposed rules are complicated – please do not be intimidated into inaction. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has come up with a FSMA rules primer and suggested templates you, be you farmer or eater, can use to prepare and send your comments to the FDA.

The more of us who act now, the more likely we are to see a fairer outcome. Comments must be submitted (or postmarked) by November 15, 2013.

Make your voice heard.