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Friday, March 27, 2009


Many of you have been hearing about HR 875, a food safety bill that has been introduced in Congress.  Although much of what has circulated the internet is not accurate, HR 875 does pose serious problems for sustainable farmers and their consumers. Unfortunately, there are already four other “food safety” bills that also pose serious problems:  HR 814, HR 759, S 425, and S 510.  HR 814 is essentially a mandatory NAIS bill, while the others focus on produce, processed foods and game under FDA jurisdiction.

Consumers who buy nutrient-dense foods from local, sustainable farmers can feel secure about the safety of their food.  The same is not true for the majority who buy their food in grocery stores from mass-production industrialized operations.  We understand the pressure that Congress faces to improve the safety of that mainstream system.  But it is critical that the laws not interfere with the right to choose local foods or with our farmers’ ability to raise safer, healthier foods!

Small sustainable farms are fundamentally different from factory farms, and should not be regulated the same way!  All of the proposed food safety bills suffer from a “one-size-fits-all” approach.  And even though the bills’ sponsors might intend for them to apply only to food crossing state lines, the federal agencies regularly take a broader view of their jurisdiction.  The FDA’s and USDA’s past actions clearly show that Congress must place strict limitations on these agencies, or they will impose burdensome and unfair regulations and enforcement actions on small farms.

We don’t know which of these bills will move forward to committee hearings — or perhaps another bill, not yet filed, will be the one to move forward.  So we encourage everyone to send a clear message: Protect our farms from bad regulation!

TAKE ACTION:  Call your U.S. Representative and Senators.  If you do not know who represents you, you can find out at or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.  Ask to speak to the staffer who handles food safety issues.

Talk with the staffer about why you support local foods.  Tell them you oppose the five bills listed above.  Ask that they support a food safety bill that focuses on the real threats to food safety, such as uninspected imports from China and lax inspections of massive slaughterhouses and other factory processing, and ask that any new laws explicitly exempt small farmers. Explain that this issue cannot be left to the agencies’ discretion, and you want a clear focus on the broken factory farm system and not on small, sustainable farmers.

UPDATE: Congressional Hearing on NAIS

Last Wednesday, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry held a hearing on NAIS.  The questions and comments of several of the Subcommittee members revealed that they view NAIS as a food safety program and critical for animal health in case of a “catastrophic outbreak.”  One member said, in essence, that the costs to farmers financially and in loss of privacy must be weighed against the “cost in human life” if NAIS isn’t implemented.

Yet USDA continues to provide absolutely no scientific evidence to support the claim that NAIS will do anything at all to improve animal health or food safety!

What NAIS will do is impose government surveillance and significant expense on animal owners for no real benefit to the public.  The only ones who will benefit from NAIS are the meat packers and exporters, tag manufacturers, database managers and other large corporations.

TAKE ACTION #2:  You can send written testimony to the Subcommittee before Friday, March 20.  Send your testimony to the Hearing Clerk, Jamie Mitchell, at

Put “March 11 Hearing - Animal Identification Programs” in the subject line.  Keep your comments clear, polite, and concise.

And be sure to send a copy to your Representative and Senators!  A copy of your letter to the Subcommittee makes a great follow-up to the phone call we suggest above.

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