A Victory for Local and Regional Food

Updating the story on food safety legislation.

Hailing “a huge victory” for the local and regional food movements, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) commented on the January 4, 2011, signing by President Obama of the Food Safety Modernization Act. (www.sustainableagriculture.net -- other links and background are provided in the earlier Endcap story, "Consumer Groups Get It Wrong.") Thanks to two years of work by NSAC, its many grassroots member organizations and allies, the legislation had been amended to distinguish industrial-scale agriculture from small and moderate size farms.

If the intent of the legislation holds up in future FDA regulatory practices, food safety rules will be size appropriate. The local and regional producers that have been nurtured in many parts of the country will still have to meet all other health requirements. But they will be exempt from new and expensive traceability and recordkeeping requirements that will be applied to large producers.

An amendment co-sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) and Kay Hagen (D-NC) was key in allowing more appropriate and less costly preventative control and produce standards for farmers who:

  • Direct market more than 50% of their products to consumers, stores, and restaurants;
  • Have gross sales of under $500,000;
  • Sell to customers that are in-state or within 275 miles;
  • Provide their customers with the producer’s name, address, and contact information.

Another important amendment (Barbara Boxer, D-CA) removed a provision that threatened wildlife by requiring, in the name of preventing “animal encroachment,” any nearby wildlife habitat. The amendment salvages part of a vision of farming that is rooted in diversity rather than in a landscape stripped of its living complexity.

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