Today, 20 November 2013, it came to my attention that the federal government is putting new regulations into effect that will change food production in America. The government agency in question is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) The law is known as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
This information came to me as an article in a weekly free publication that the local newspaper publishes and distributes in the area for the purpose of holding together advertising fliers. Let me assure you that I do not put much stock in what the local newspaper has to say. I worked at that paper a few years back and honestly don't trust them. However, this article got my attention.
My first reaction was a mix of anger and panic. This reaction quickly shifted to my normal distrust of the newspaper, and my tendency to go to the source of any rumor. As soon as evening chores were finished, I went to the computer and searched "food safety modernization act". My search led to the FDA website, more specifically, www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/default.htm. I found that amendments are abundant further confusing the issue. To try making some sense of the law and proposed rules, I clicked on "fact sheets" in the menu. The fact sheets were helpful, though there is still plenty of room for confusion.
As with any federal law, there are a tremendous number of words, all in the vaguest possible form of legalese, and very little usable information, all of which is open to interpretation. I STRONGLY encourage you to search this law and read it carefully, if you are inclined to grow and sell veggies, even on a small scale. It seems the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law by President Obama in January 2011 (though this is the first I had heard of it), giving the FDA more power to regulate food safety. The rules, however appear to be still in the making.
Personally, I was shocked at the degree of control these proposed rules are expected to exert over how we grow food. They deal with the quality of water for irrigation (including strict continuous testing of the water and treatment requirements if the water doesn't pass the test), when, how and what type of compost can be used as well as the sterility standards the compost must comply with, and even strict regulation of the plumbing requirements in farm buildings. Also, it regulates how and when animals (wild and domestic) can be allowed in the growing area, which makes it far more difficult to use draft animals. As a wildlife Biologist, I had to laugh at the concept of keeping wildlife away from the crop area.
On the surface, this doesn't seem to effect really small operations. Upon closer examination, it becomes obvious that the rules will be phased in over a period of time to include even very small farms.
These new rules are being put in place in the name of "food safety". I, like most people, am completely in favor of food safety. That is why I read labels in the grocery store, wash and/or cook produce, and ask local growers how their produce is grown. In short, the consumer should be informed and allowed to make their own decisions. Keep in mind that the government agency making the rules in the name of food safety, is the FDA. This is the same agency that continues to allow chemical food additives that are banned in most other countries and are well known to cause quite a number of major and even deadly illnesses including heart disease and cancer. So what is the real reason for these new rules?
At the end of the day, this may change how things work here on Dave's farm. In particular, the intended sales of surplus produce to help with the bills. Fortunately, I was unable to find any reference to limiting me from growing what I eat or "giving" produce to friends and neighbors. And if they choose to "give" me other things I need, that isn't regulated either. At least not yet.
I strongly urge you to read this new law. It is possible that you may interpret it differently than I did. I also sincerely hope you will share your views with us on this situation.