Food and Drug Administration-proposed rules governing food safety in the U.S., if passed, will result in unintended consequences for U.S. farmers, a group of bipartisan lawmakers said Monday.
In a letter co-signed by 75 members of Congress, including 42 Republicans and 33 Democrats or Independents, a coalition led by Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Reps. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., Chris Gibson, R-N.Y. and Annie Kuster, D-N.H., said a second draft of regulations for public comment on the Food Safety Modernization Act will be necessary before issuing a final rule.
The initial comment period for the regulations ended Nov. 22 after three extensions. The 1,200-page document containing the proposed rules is part of a sweeping reform to food safety that focuses on prevention instead of control, according to the FDA.
The coalition expressed concerns about the impact of proposed rules on farmers and businesses that an additional comment period could help alleviate. The group pointed to specific concerns about the rule, including:
-The testing frequency required for certain agricultural waters;
-Restrictions placed on the usage of biological soil amendments;
-Compliance issues at mixed-use facilities;
-New requirements that conflict with existing conservation and environmental standards and practices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture;
-The limiting definitions used in the rule for "farm," "small business" and "very small business"; and
-The lack of consideration of the complexity of various farm ownership entities.
Similar concerns have been voiced by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the American Farm Bureau.
Like the legislators, NSAC had specific concerns about environmental regulations, noting the rules will "restrict the use of sustainable farming practices, inhibit diversification and innovation in farming and short supply chains, and fail to provide workable, affordable options for family farmers."
NSAC said the proposed regulations "fail to meet the requirements that Congress set forth in the FSMA for a flexible approach that reflects different risks at different scales and supply chains," said Ariane Lotti, NSAC’s Assistant Policy Director.
American Farm Bureau food safety specialist Kelli Ludlum explained many of the regulations "miss the mark" in a AFBF interview last week.
"Unfortunately (FDA has) chosen to … regulate a whole scope of commodities that have never had food-borne illnesses, and frankly, because of the way that they’re grown and consumed are very unlikely to have those issues," Ludlum said, referring to regulations on apples, cherries and citrus fruits, which tend to be more resistant to pathogens. However, Ludlum said, they are rolled into the same regulations as other fruits that do not possess the same characteristics.
The lawmakers also expressed concerns that the rules, and the costs of complying with them, will force some producers and processors to shutter their operations.
"We believe the rules as currently proposed would result in a multitude of unintended consequences that would be severely detrimental to national, regional and local agriculture," the lawmakers' letter concluded. "By seeking additional input through second proposed rules for public comment before final rules, we believe that producers' concerns can be addressed and unintended consequences can be greatly mitigated."