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November 13, 2009

Fixing the Food Safety Bill
Food safety reform is now in the hands of the Senate HELP Committee. One of the main concerns of the bill involves the extent to which it will negatively affect small and organic farms (possibly even putting FDA food safety standards and USDA Organic standards in direct conflict).

In response, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has proposed an amendment that would ensure the safety of our food while not overly burdening small and organic farmers. But the Senators on the committee need to hear from their constitutents on this issue before Nov. 18 when they'll vote on the bill. This is of particular interest to PAers since our own Sen. Bob Casey is on the committee. So, let's hit the phones! The complete committee lineup complete with phone numbers is below.

Here are the details from the NSAC:

The bill includes several key reforms that would put real teeth into federal regulation of large-scale food processing corporations to better protect consumers. However, the bill as written would also do serious harm to family farm value added processing, local and regional food systems, conservation and wildlife protection, and organic farming.

The good news is the HELP committee could fix those problems with the adoption of some common sense provisions to retain a crack down on corporate bad actors without erecting dangerous new barriers to the growing healthy food movement based on small and mid-sized family farms, sustainable and organic production methods, and more local and regional food sourcing.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Organic Coalition, have fashioned just such a set of common sense provisions that must be added to S 510.

We urge you to contact your Senator on the HELP Committee (list below) and urge them to support the NSAC/NOC amendments!

It's easy to call. If your Senator is on the HELP Committee (see the list below), please call or fax their office and ask to speak with the aide in charge of food safety issues. You can also call the Capitol Switchboard and ask to be directly connected to your Senator's office: 202-224-3121.

The message is simple. "I am a constituent of Senator___________ and I am calling to ask him/her to support the proposals for amendments to S 510 offered by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Organic Coalition."

Specifically, ask them to support the following key principles:

* The bill should provide small and mid-sized family farms that market value-added farm products with training and technical assistance in developing food safety plans for their farms.

* The bill should direct FDA to narrow the kinds of farm activities subject to FDA control and to base those regulations on sound risk analysis. (Current FDA rules assume, without any scientific evidence or risk analysis, that all farms which undertake any one of a long list of processing, labeling or packaging activities should be regulated.)

* The bill should direct FDA to ease compliance for organic farmers by integrating the FDA standards with the organic certification rules. FDA compliance should not jeopardize a farmer's ability to be organically certified under USDA's National Organic Program.

* The bill should insist that FDA food safety standards and guidance will not contradict federal conservation, environmental, and wildlife standards and practices, and not force the farmer to choose which federal agency to obey and which to reject.

* Farmers who sell directly to consumers should not be required to keep records and be part of a federal "traceback" system. All other farms should not be required to maintain records electronically or records beyond the first point of sale beyond the farmgate.

For more information on the Senate Food Safety bill, please see NSAC's Talking Points here and its Policy Brief Food Safety on the Farm.

List of Senate HELP Committee Members

Senator Phone Fax

Democrats

Tom Harkin (IA) 202-224-3254 No fax

Chris Dodd (CT) 202-224-2823 202-224-1083

Barbara Mikulski (MD) 202-224-4654 202-224-8858

Jeff Bingaman (NM) 202-224-5521 No fax

Patty Murray (WA) 202-224-2621 202-224-0238

Jack Reed (RI) 202-224-4642 202-224-4680

Bernie Sanders (VT) 202-224-5141 202-228-0776

Sherrod Brown (OH) 202-224-2315 202-228-6321

Bob Casey (PA) 202-224-6324 202-228-0604

Kay Hagan (NC) 202-224-6342 202-228-2563

Jeff Merkley (OR) 202-224-3753 202-228-3997

Al Franken (MN) 202-224-5641 No fax

Michael Bennet (CO) 202-224-5852 202-228-5036

Senator Phone Fax

Republicans

Mike Enzi (WY) 202-224-3424 202-228-0359

Judd Gregg (NH) 202-224-3324 No fax

Lamar Alexander (TN) 202-224-4944 202-228-3398

Richard Burr (NC) 202-224-3154 202-228-2981

Johnny Isakson (GA) 202-224-3643 202-228-0724

Orrin Hatch (UT) 202-224-5251 202-224-6331

Pat Roberts (KS) 202-224-4774 202-224-3514

Tom Coburn (OK) 202-224-5754 202-224-6008

Lisa Murkowski (AK) 202-224-6665 202-224-5301

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