PLEASE CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE! URGE THEM TO SUPPORT THE KAPTUR-FARR FOOD SAFETY PROPOSAL
There is no question: our food system needs to be safer. But Congress is currently debating food safety legislation (Food Safety Enhancement Act - H.R. 2749) that could hinder beginning, sustainable, and organic farmers' access to markets, require expensive fees, and lead to the dismantling of important conservation practices and wildlife habitat.
HR 2749 is still scheduled to go to the floor of the House on Wednesday July 29 under a suspension vote, which means limited debate and no amendments, but a requirement for a two-thirds majority for passage. With negotiations still underway this evening, however, it seems reasonably likely that a vote could be pushed to Thursday.
Representatives Marcy Kaptur (OH-9), Sam Farr (CA-17), Maurice Hinchey (NY-22), Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL-2), Peter Welch (VT-at large), Chellie Pingree (ME-1) and Earl Blumenauer (OR-3) last week submitted a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee with specific proposed changes to HR 2749 that addresses many of the concerns raised by the sustainable and organic agriculture community.
At the same time, the House Agriculture Committee majority today concluded negotiations with the sponsors of HR 2749 that secured one of the changes proposed in the Kaptur-Farr et al request - namely, a greater role for USDA in all the farm-related portions of the bill. That was helpful as far as it went, but it did not directly address other critical concerns.
It is important that you call your Representative by tomorrow, Wednesday midday, and ask them to join the effort to protect small and mid-sized family farmers, the environment, and consumer choice by supporting the provisions in the Kaptur-Farr proposal to HR 2749. Please see the background section below for more information
PLEASE CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE IMMEDIATELY!
It's easy to call. Please call or fax your Representative's office and ask to speak with the aide that works on agriculture. If you don't know your Representative's name, please click here http://www.house.gov/
and enter your zip code in the top left-hand corner of the screen. Then call the Capitol Switchboard and ask to be directly connected to your Representative's office: 202-224-3121.
The message is simple. "I am a constituent of Representative___________ and I am calling to ask him/her to support the Kaptur-Farr proposal to HR 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009. I am also asking him/her to vote against HR 2749 unless the proposals included in the Kaptur-Farr letter are included in the final bill."
On June 17, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009. While the bill did incorporate some important changes proposed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and National Organic Coalition, HR 2749 retains a flat $500 registration fee per facility, thus failing to incorporate a scaled fee system. This means that a small processor (even farmers doing on-farm value-added processing if selling mostly wholesale) would pay the same annual fee as a facility run by Tyson, ADM, or any other large food manufacturer.
The bill also requires farms to do extensive and expensive electronic tracing even if they only sell their own unprocessed products in the wholesale market. In addition, the bill does not specify the positive role that conservation practices can play to address food safety concerns, and also fails to provide guidance so that new food safety standards are harmonized with those specified in the Organic Foods Production Act.
As of Monday July 27, the House Agriculture Committee members have concluded their negotiations with the Energy and Commerce Committee that resulted in some positive changes to the Manager's Amendment--including increased coordination between USDA and FDA and an exemption for grain and hay farmers from full-scale electronic traceability requirements--these still do no substantively address the concerns of the sustainable and organic agriculture communities.
The bill is scheduled to go to the floor of the House on Wednesday, July 29. We are asking the Energy and Commerce Committee to include the provisions outlined in the Kaptur-Farr proposal that:
* Directs the FDA to ensure new produce standards focus on the highest-risk problems in the fresh produce sector;
* Protects wildlife and biodiversity by emphasizing animals of significant risk as FDA develops produce standards;
* Expands the direct marketing exemption so that farmers selling directly to school cafeterias and other institutions or whose farm identity is preserved on products all the way to the consumer, are not required to establish an expensive tracing system;
* Ensures that new food safety regulations are consistent and coordinated with the federal organic standard administered by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) which already has traceability and other measures that support food safety;
* Establishes a sliding scale for facility registration for farms that qualify as 'facilities' based on their on-farm processing activities so that small and mid-sized family farmers are not forced to pay the same fee as multinational companies.
* Requires farmers to maintain paper records of farm sales receipts to the first buyer of the product rather than electronic records of all sales through the entire food supply chain.