"Even though an agreement was reached on the Tester-Hagan amendment last week, by the leadership in the Senate, this issue in the food safety bill is still not over!
The Tester-Hagan amendment would exempt smaller, organic and local growers from expensive regulatory burdens.
For over a year, the big Agribusiness trade organizations have supported passage of S.510, the Food Safety Modernization Act. From agribusiness’s perspective, the bill was a win-win: they could absorb the costs of the regulations because of their size; they'd gain good PR for supposedly improving food safety practices, gain some protection from legal liabilities—and hobble the competition—local food producers by crushing them with new regulatory burdens.
Their anti-competitive motivation was only speculation until now. But when the Senators agreed to include the Tester-Hagan amendment in the bill, to exempt small-scale direct-marketing producers from some of the most burdensome provisions, agribusiness revealed its true colors. Late last week, twenty agribusiness lobby groups fired off a letter stating that they would oppose the bill if it included the Tester-Hagan amendment.
The letter from the agribusiness groups states: “[B]y incorporating the Tester amendment in the bill, consumers will be left vulnerable to the gaping holes and uneven application of the law created by these exemptions. In addition, it sets an unfortunate precedent for future action on food safety policy by Congress that science and risk based standards can be ignored.”
The full letter can be viewed at:
assets/files/Letter%20on% 20Passage%20of%20S%20%20510% 20and%20Tester%20Amendment.pdf
What science and risk? No one has produced any data or evidence of any widespread problems caused by local producers and marketed directly to consumers. All of the major foodborne illness outbreaks have been caused by products that went through the long supply chains of corporate agribusiness, many emanating from factory-scale farms.
Agribusiness’s real concern about the Tester-Hagan amendment isn’t food safety, but the precedent set by having Congress recognize that small, direct-marketing producers are different, and should be regulated differently, from the large Agribusinesses.
Corporate agribusiness is trying to convince the Senators to pull the Tester-Hagan amendment back out. While the amendment is currently part of the “Managers’ Package” – the amended version of the bill agreed to by six bipartisan sponsors – nothing is certain until the actual vote.
This Thanksgiving week, please take a moment to call or email your Senators to tell them to hold firm on KEEPING the Tester-Hagan amendment part of the bill. The legislation will likely come up for a vote when they go back into session early next week.
You can call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or go to www.senate.gov to find your Senator’s website (if the phone lines are busy, the best way to reach them is through the "contact" page on their website)"
Prepared by the staff of The Cornucopia Institute and the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Food Democracy Now:
Photos: Slow Food Nation garden, City hall, SF CA. Squash from Land & Sea school garden, Friday Harbor, WA. L Degnan Cobos