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Farmer's Market? - Food Safety Bill Passes House

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Last Thursday, July 30th, a Bill passed in the US House of Representatives that could seriously inhibit if not end Farmer's Markets and Organic Food.

According to Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, if this Bill becomes law, anyone selling produce will be subject to a warrantless search of their records by the FDA.  Not having records, refusal to show your records, or records not proving you measure up to "federally-established standards for growing produce" will result in automatic charges of selling adulterated food.  There's much more about how this law would affect all aspects of small farmers, go look for yourself, but one might wonder what is, "federally-established standards for growing produce."  Here's what Obama's science and technology adviser to the US Secretary of State, Nina Fedoroff recently said:

"Then there are the romantic agri-myths, like the “organic” one, which lots of people have bought into. It goes like this: Organic food, farmed using manure instead of chemicals, is better for you and better for the land. None of that’s true—nitrogen is nitrogen—but it’s pretty good marketing if you’re selling poor produce at exorbitant prices."


President Barack Obama praised the bill soon after it was passed, calling it "a major step forward in modernizing our food safety system." And keep in mind the man in charge of implementing this law, Michael Taylor, was Monsanto’s chief lobbyist.

That's bad enough and you see how oblivious those in power are to bad practices of large agri-business. But if you think our local leaders in the organic food community and Farmers Market are going to warn you about this, or take the small farmer's side, ask them. Go ask those organic farming leaders who are talking directly to law makers about what it means to be an organic or small farmer. This is the response I got from one when I said this legislation could be a threat to organic farming.

"Well, I personally seriously don't see any of this.  I work directly with state and federal programs associated with farming and food safety.  I recently participated in a USDA program two weeks ago, with the Sustainable Ag Research and Education (SARE), and everything that is being said, promoted for assess to funding opportunities and such is pretty much the opposite of what you are suggesting.  CSA's and farmers markets continue to grow across the nation and their success is partially from funding received for support from the gov and more funding is being offered to support these venues. The organic and sustainable farmers will continue to thrive despite any hubbub from agri-business moguls.  There are more politicians serving in the White house that support local food than ever before."

This person serves on the State of Idaho Organic Foods Advisory Council; University of Idaho College of Ag and Life Sciences Advisory Board representing small acreage farmers for the state of Idaho; University of Idaho Horticultural Advisory Committee; and Board of Directors for Rural Roots (the  Inland Northwest Community Food Systems Task Force).  They teach organic gardening & natural pest control in the Master Gardener course; helped to develop Small Farm programs for the University of Idaho and Washington State University; teaches farmers to become certified instructors.  Currently, they serve as a consultant for the sustainable Agriculture program for the Washington and Idaho Partnership 2020 project. This person was selected as a recipient for a Founder of the New Northwest award by Sustainable Northwest.  But they continue to believe this Food Safety law is focused on limiting large Ari-business farms and will make food safer!

I guess it all boils down to how you perceive what the law says and how it gets interpreted, but I share the concerns of those who know the law like the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.  Other organizations like Organic Consumers Association also share the concerns of this group.

Consider what has already been accomplished by large Agri-business in limiting small farmers.

A few years ago individual areas all over the United States were making local laws against the use in their county of Genetically Modified seeds, but Idaho legislators (as in other states) using laws ghost written by large Agri-Business, preemptively removed your right to make that decision at a local level.  

Here's the Idaho law:  

TITLE 22 AGRICULTURE AND HORTICULTURE CHAPTER 4 PURE SEED LAW 22-413. STATEWIDE JURISDICTION AND PREEMPTION. (1) This chapter and its provisions are of statewide concern and occupy the whole field of regulation regarding the registration, labeling, sale, storage, transportation, distribution, notification of use, use of seeds, and planting of seeds to the exclusion of all local ordinances or regulations. Except as otherwise specifically provided in this chapter, no ordinance or regulation of any political subdivision may prohibit or in any way attempt to regulate any matter relating to the registration, labeling, sale, storage, transportation, distribution, notification of use, use of seeds, or planting of seeds. (2) The provisions of subsection (1) of this section shall not preempt county or city local zoning ordinances governing the physical location or siting of seed facilities.

Notice the above law makes a point that no lower subdivision of the Idaho state, a county or city, may prohibit the use of seeds.  And yet it's easy to see how the state allows extensive powers to counties when it comes to dealing with seeds that are considered noxious.  Look at Idaho Title 22, Agriculture and Horticulture Chapter 24 Noxious Weeds for that proof.  This was purely a pre-emptive strike against those who would ban GM agriculture in their area.

Considering the fact that those who should know the dangers and that Idaho and many other states have already succumb to these laws which give large Agri-business the advantage, I have no doubt there is a real and present danger from this House Resolution becoming law and we should ALL be very worried.  Maybe to the point of getting angry enough to even say it out loud.
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Jay Mock
248 Flume Creek
Sandpoint, Idaho 83864
208.263.1270

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