The big news this week comes from our nation’s capital, where the Senate voted 73 to 25 in favor of Senate Bill S510, the first comprehensive food safety reform in this country in nearly 30 years. While the final language of the Food Modernization Act is still subject to the reconciliation process, it is expected that a bill will be on the president’s desk for his signature before the end of the year.
In the end, the Senate did a good job of balancing the need for increased regulation while preserving the viability of small farms and consumer choice. At odds was the issue of size: Is a one-size-fits-all approach sensible when it comes to regulation? Are larger farms somehow more responsible or susceptible to incidences of food contamination and the spread of foodborne illnesses?
The truth remains that there exists a risk no matter where you get your food. Through more effective regulation of large farms (those responsible for sickening hundreds or thousands at a time) and the preservation of consumer choice at local markets, the Senate has done a good job of balancing the need for greater food safety assurances and the competing interests of big ag and small farms.
You may remember our post in September about the Tester Amendment. The Tester Amendment refers to a bill called the Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510). In a nutshell, S.510 places stricter regulations on farms that process their crops. The issue arises with smaller farms and facilities as the bill makes it more difficult for your favorite small farm products to get into stores and your kitchen. Those small farms will also be forced to pay additional fees for required regulations and tests.
The Tester Amendment exempts those small farm/facilities with incomes under $500,000 and allows them to continue their operations while putting the necessary checks on big agriculture producers/farms.
The Problem in Washington
Since we last updated you, the Senate has voted 74 to 25 in favor of the cloture vote for The Food Modernization Act. This means it could move forward to a final vote by the end of the week.
At the moment, support for the Tester-Hagan Amendment is unclear and possibly even absent. According to a Democracy Now alert:
“We’re hearing that some Senators still have not made up their minds or even worse, some are waffling in their support for the Tester-Hagan and Manager’s Amendments, which will help protect farmers who sell their produce or goods locally to farmers markets, customers, stores and restaurants from excessive regulations that could harm their ability to compete and even survive.”
“S.510 is the most important food safety bill in a generation. The Tester amendment will make it even more effective, helping to ensure food safety while protecting small farmers and producers. We both think this is the right thing to do,” said Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser.
How You Can Help
It’s critical you show your support for the Tester-Hagan Amendment today. Washington is on the move, and very close to a decision on this. With your support we can ensure small farms like Tahoma Farms and distributors like Terra Organics are able to sustain their businesses without the fees and roadblocks included in this unbalanced act.
STEP 1: Call Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and let them know you support the Tester-Hagen Amendment.
You may be surprised, but giving your Senators a call makes a serious difference in how they act. Calling in is the easiest and best way to help make the Tester-Hagen Amendment happen.
Senator Patty Murray
STEP 2: Share this with your friends and family
Terra Organics and Tahoma Farms needs all the support it can get in helping to pass this critical amendment. Explain the importance of the Tester-Hagen amendment to friends and family and urge them to make the same call to their own State Senators.
Thank you, as always, for your support! We, at Terra Organics, love being able to provide you and your family with the best quality, small farm grown, organic produce and hope to be able to continue to do so in the same way that we already are.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510), a bill which will place stricter regulations on farms that process their crops, is on its way to the Senate floor. In many ways, with additional safety protocols, the bill situates food as a security concern and allows the government more control over food distribution and production.
While placing stricter restrictions on crop processing isn’t inherently bad as it helps to crack down on corporate offenders, the bill could have seriously damaging ramifications to small to mid-size farms and small food processing facilities who market their products direct to consumers, stores or restaurants within their region. That means, some of the small farm products you love will have a much harder time getting into stores and your kitchen. Those small farms will also be forced to pay additional fees for required regulations and tests.
Further, smaller farms are what make-up a healthy regional agriculture system, and S.510 could seriously damage the prosperity of these farms/facilities and thus hinder the health and sustainability of our agriculture. If small farms are required to live up to the same regulations as the corporate producers, because those big brands have more resources, it becomes easier for them to take over the market and hurt our agricultural diversity. That loss of diversity is detrimental to the growing local movement and whole concept of sustainable agriculture in the United States.
Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) has sponsored an amendment that would exempt those small farm/facilities with incomes under $500,000. This provides our local farmers with the freedom to continue to provide their products under the existing safety regulations. That doesn’t mean these small farmers and any less safe, just that they will not be subject to the weight of mass regulation and can continue to provide unique product to their region.
Tester frames his amendment well in a press release:
“Let’s face it, dangerous food-borne outbreaks don’t start with family agriculture. Food produced on that scale shouldn’t be subject to the same expensive federal regulations as some big factory that mass produces food for the entire country.”
Please, help support family farms by supporting the Tester Amendment.
How you can help
Call your Senators today and ask them to support the Tester Amendment.
- Go to Congress.org and type in your zip code.
- Click on your Senator’s name, and then on the contact tab for their phone number. You can also call the Capitol Switchboard and ask to be directly connected to your Senator’s office: 202-224-3121.
- Once connected ask to speak to the legislative staff person responsible for agriculture. If they are unavailable leave a voice mail message. Be sure to include your name and phone number.
The message is simple. “I am a constituent of Senator___________ and I am calling to ask him/her to support the Tester Amendment and to include the Tester language in the Manager’s Amendment to the food safety bill. The Tester Amendment will exempt small farm and food facilities and farmers who direct market their products to consumers, stores or restaurants. We need a food safety bill that cracks down on corporate bad actors without erecting new barriers to family farms and the growing healthy food movement. Our continuing economic recovery demands that we preserve these market opportunities for small and mid-sized family farms.
Thank you for your support!
On one end of the spectrum, you have flocks of two to three hens, kept in your or your neighbor’s backyard, where the one dozen eggs produced each week is enough to feed the family that cares for the chickens.
On the other end of the spectrum is an egg factory in the middle of Iowa, where millions of birds lay millions of eggs per day (32 million egg cartons recalled times 12 eggs per carton divided by 90 days of production equals 4,266,666 eggs per day where the average hen lays one egg per day).
It’s hard to imagine how far and how fast we got away from decentralized and local production of food. The recent recall by Wright County Egg has now reached 17 states (including Washington) and the number of reported cases of salmonella linked to the eggs is over 2,000.
Nationally, only 0.4% of all food purchased by consumers comes direct from the farmer. We’re working with you to grow this number, and as our distribution network grows so does our ability to keep local farmland in production, plant heirloom seeds and raise heritage breeds of animals, keep dollars in our community, and, not least of all, deliver incredibly fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables.
If you are free on Sunday, please take a drive out to Tahoma Farms, at 21108 Orville Rd E, Orting. We will be there from 2 to 6 pm. There will be guided farm tours at 2:30 and 3:30, and a potluck dinner at 5:00. We hope you can join us!
We have the first in a new series of podcasts posted on our blog for those interested in hearing an impromptu conversation about McDonalds, Wal-Mart, sustainability and how local food production, and Terra Organics, fits into the mix.
There’s also a graphic that I’ve been holding onto for a while, and it now seems timely to share it.
The subsidy regime pits commodity growers against vegetable and fruit growers, and McDonalds and others buy fillers and subsidized meat, dairy, and grains at an artificially low cost. The foods that should be accessible to the least healthy amongst us have little to no price supports. So long as corn syrup and factory meat and dairy dominate the $60 billion a year farm program in this country, McDonalds will always dominate the way food is produced and consumed in this country, no matter how many new farmers markets are springing up around the country.
But, of course, that doesn’t mean we can give up the fight.
Thanks to efforts by the Good Food Coalition, yesterday, Governor Chris Gregoire signed an important Executive Order at the Food Systems Strategies Summit. Executive Order 10-02 brings together agencies and community partners to coordinate their work and increase collaboration to strengthen our Washington State’s food system.
The Order tasks the Departments of Health, Agriculture, Social and Health Services along with the Conservation Commission and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to deliver a report to the Governor and the Legislature outlining the remaining gaps and opportunities in Washington state food policy that will help agencies, legislators, and stakeholders develop solutions that fit our state’s needs.
“We need to keep our farmers working, and ensure all kids have access to farm fresh food,” said Rep. Kevin Van De Wege (Sequim). “This Executive Order is a building block towards a better way of doing things, and I’m hopeful that it will result in strong policy recommendations to the Legislature on how we can promote healthy farms and healthy food.”
The Order also opens the door for National funding and education and promotion of nutrition to the public.
Call it a perfect storm. Since the advent of organics in the marketplace in the mid-to-late 90’s, there has not been a confluence of events and media reports that has done more to challenge the industrial food paradigm than what we have seen in recent weeks. I was asked to speak on a panel of entrepreneurs this past week at a breakfast held in Seattle by my alma mater, University of Puget Sound, and these were a few of the stories I highlighted: More >
Unbeknown to many a healthy eater, from 1995 to 2007 a lot of the bright organic brands of tomorrow became subsidiaries of the “big name” brands of yesterday. Thanks to Philip H. Howard, we now have that in a visual form.
In 1995 the organic processing industry was relatively ‘fragmented’, as indicated by the 81 independent organic brands shown at the beginning of the animation. By 2007, however, all but 15 of these were acquired by multinational food processors, many of which also introduced organic versions of their mainstream brands. Note the extent to which investment firms played a role in this process of consolidation by acquiring one or more organic brands before selling them to multinational processors.
Jamie Oliver is trying to make American schools provide more healthy foods. His mission is to start a food revolution and change the way Americans eat. Check out some footage of Jamie on Oprah.
A study from the CDC outlines the lack of fruits and vegetables in American diets.
The data indicates that a staggering average of 86% of American are not meeting recommended requirements for fruit and vegetable consumption (2+ fruits/3+ vegetables a day). What’s more astonishing is that an average of 90.5% of adolescents are also not meeting those requirements.
The study goes on to present different community solution factors including the prevalence of farmers markets, produce distributors like Terra Organics, and health food stores. In addition, the CDC touches on the correlation of nutritional and farm-to-school programs to higher percentages of adolescents meeting recommended fruit and vegetable consumption.
Read the full report here and listen to Cookie Monster!!