8/17/2013 12:00 AM
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www.lancasterfarming.com LancasterFarming,Nor thernEdition,Saturday,August17,2013-A9 Farm Markets Threatened by Food Safety Efforts Editor: Each week at my farm stands in the Maryland area, we try to explain a peculiar situation to our customers. On the one hand, they want to buy our fresh fruits and vegetables. However, I tell them, that in a few years, these will all be illegal to sell! Why? Because they have some degree of dirt and bacteria on them. The strawberries, for instance, have some trace amount of straw and soil on them, as do the tomatoes, beans and cucumbers. We do rinse them before leaving the farm -- but we won't put them through a disinfectant bath nor pack them in antiseptic plastic containers and put "PLU" labels on them. That's not what consumers want at a farm market, nor is it something we'll ever be able to do. Regulations for a new food law -- the Food Safety Modernization Act, overseen by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- are currently in the process of being finalized. Although the act originally had protections for family farmers like me, we see those being ignored or phased out over time. Common sense and the data of recent food safety scares lead us to a very strong conclusion: The further the food travels from the farm to the consumer, the more opportunities it has to become a food safety problem. The current cyclospora food poisoning problem in bagged salads is a good example. This is one reason why 20 million consumers come to farmers markets like ours and want fresh produce from our fields -- preferably grown without pesticides, herbicides or GMO seeds. And sadly, protecting consumers from these synthetic perils is not addressed by FSMA. Nor does FDA address what is common sense to many scientists, doctors and parents: Our bodies are dependent on good germs and bacteria. If anything, rather than developing the antiseptic globalized industrial-style food system FSMA seeks, we should be searching for ways to increase the amount of good bacteria in our bodies. In fact, fecal implants to repopulate the gut with bacteria are not science fiction -- the medical profession is now performing them every day. So, why is this bad science becoming the law of the land? First, it is partially due to corporate profit. Corporations depend on a global supply chain, and in doing so they are finding it increasingly difficult to deliver safe food. At the same time, they are losing market share to the local (610)268-6962 (610)268-4172fx food systems that customers are demanding -- witness the sharp increase in farmers markets, community-supported agriculture (CSAs), and restaurants offering "farm to fork" menus. To avoid legal liability, the corporations want to legitimize an industrial approach to sterilizing everything, without regard to the unnecessary and costly burden placed on local farmers. U.S. Cattlemen's Association If your local farmer goes out of business trying to comply with The United States Cattlemen's Association, joined the costs of hundreds of pages of new federal food safety regulaby National Farmers Union, the American Sheep Intions, well that just leaves more customers without a local alterdustry Association and the Consumer Federation of native. America, has filed with the District Court in WashSecond, there is the misguided advocacy of consumer orgaington, D.C., a motion to intervene in the lawsuit nizations, like Center for Science in the Public Interest. filed on July 8 by nine plaintiffs seeking an end to the U.S. country of origin labeling, They mean well, but they think that throwing regulatory or COOL, program. words and paperwork burdens at a problem will solve it. The motion to intervene was accompaThis approach is overly legalistic, and it ignores the nied by a number of other documents from realities of nature and the practical fact that overregulatthe four groups including a memorandum ing a sector that is not causing a problem -- small farmon the motion for intervention, an answer ers -- cannot possibly lead to safer food. Commentary/ to the amended complaint and a response And finally, there is this administration's commitment to plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary inOpinion to the biotech industry. It's no accident that FDA's depujunction. ty commissioner responsible for food safety, Michael R. If granted intervenor status by the court, Taylor, is a former Monsanto vice president. USCA, NFU, ASI and CFA will be presenting arguThat partially explains why the "safe food" mandate does nothments in defense of the USDA Agricultural Marketing to protect us from genetically engineered food and the harsh ing Service regulations on COOL. chemicals that are necessarily paired with it. A decision by the court on the motion for interveIt will, however, put many of us farmers, who are committed to nor status will hopefully be made in the near future, fresh, healthy and sustainably grown food, out of business. but there is no specific time limit for such decisions. We note in the July 13 issue of Lancaster Farming, Page A10, A hearing on the plaintiffs' motion for a prelimithat Don Bessemer, a third-generation farmer, whose family has nary injunction is scheduled for Aug. 27. A response farmed for 117 years in Akron, Ohio, has already closed his Besto the motion for preliminary injunction by the U.S. semer Farm Market and specifically named FDA and FSMA as Department of Justice (representing the USDA) was the reason. due to be filed Aug. 9. Plaintiffs were due to file He had to lay off his 30 employees and estimated that with their reply to the opposition papers on the prelimithe "many layers of government red tape and paperwork" the renary injunction motion by Aug. 16. quirements would cost him at least $100,000 to comply with the The lawsuit seeking an end to the implementation regulations and $30,000 a year for inspections. and enforcement of COOL regulations was filed He said that in 117 years they have never poisoned anyone and, on July 8 by the National Cattlemen's Beef Asso"I can fight the bugs, I can fight the lack of rain, but when the guy ciation, American Meat Institute, North American comes with a clipboard, what are you going to do?" Meat Association, Canadian Cattlemen's AssociaWe can all see the future. It is those antiseptic, theoretically tion, Canadian Pork Council, National Pork Probacteria-free plastic containers that will soon become the only ducers Council, American Association of Meat Proway we will be able to shop for all of our produce. cessors, Southwest Meat Association and Mexico's And that should be an issue of public outrage. National Confederation of Livestock Organizations. -- Michael Tabor "This is a very important step in the intervention Needmore, Pa. -- Nick Maravell process," said Jon Wooster, USCA president, of San Buckeystown, Md. Lucas, Calif. "The plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction has expedited our filings with the court. Our counsel in Washington has been working Natural Dairy Products Corp. hard to get papers prepared and filed today (Aug. was founded in 1995 as a family 9) to hopefully permit our voices to be heard at the owned and operated important preliminary injunction hearing phase. organization producing organic dairy "USCA is fortunate to be joined in this request for intervenor status by three products under the other groups, and this Natural By Nature brand name. joint effort provides the Natural By Nature organic dairy court with a significant products are produced with great representative sampling care and distributed nationwide. We of both the U.S. livestock are actively seeking new organic, production sector as well grass-based dairy as consumers," Wooster producers in southeastern said. "USCA will conPennsylvania. tinue to release informaCall Kathy Barry Agency at For more information on our tion as this process moves (610)693-5000 to find out why. program please call us at forward." 610-268-6962 Industry Groups Seek to Support USDA in COOL Lawsuit "CELEBRATE" Dairy Month! Increase Your Milk Production! Water affects cows in many ways: Contaminates Symptoms Sensenig Custom Farming Hay Merging Chopping Ag Bagging Bacteria Poor Herd Health Nitrates Poor Conception Rates Low Milk Production Manganese = Poor Milk Quality Sulfates pH Low Water Intake Iron High Culling Rates Toxicity Experience Something Different Sometimes, a fresh opinion is the first step in the right direction Now is the time to ensure that your financial objectives remain on track. SMITH, MAYER LIDDLE possesses the knowledge, insight, and experience to help. 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