Food Safety Guidelines Could Dampen Local Foods, Farmers Markets

Do you love your local farmers? We sure do, which is why we care about the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Awhile back, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). They then handed it over to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to write the rules for the act, and that’s when the problems became clear.

FDA isn’t used to working with small and mid-sized family farmers. Instead, they apparently wrote the rules with big produce farmers and big food processors in mind, since a few of those producers and processors have been causing many of the massive food safety scares in the last few years.

photo of Kathie Starkweather with South Maple Street goodiesHowever, the small, mid-sized, and beginning farmers would still have to follow the rules. This might put a lot on small businesses out of business.

The comments came pouring in to FDA from around the country: from farmers worried about losing their ability to farm sustainably, from concerned consumers who fear local strawberries or salsa might disappear from the neighborhood farmers’ market.

Our comments to FDA said that the food safety rules must:

  • Allow farmers to use sustainable farming practices, including those already allowed and encouraged by existing federal organic standards and conservation programs.
  • Ensure that diversified and innovative farms – particularly those pioneering models for increased access to healthy, local foods – continue to grow and thrive without being stifled.
  • Provide options that treat family farms fairly, with due process and without excessive costs.

We want our food to be safe. We also want farmers who aren’t causing food safety hazards to be able to make a living. There’s a lot at stake in this piece of policy – the future of our local food systems and farmers’ markets; a fair chance for the next generation of farmers; and the opportunity for children to taste fresh, healthy, and local foods in their schools and communities.

Photo credit: Kathie Starkweather shows off her South Maple Street Goodies at a meeting on local foods. We’re concerned new food safety rules might hamper such markets. | Photo by Chandra Ruthstrom, Kansas State University