Friday, November 19, 2010

National Grange Action Alert

Contact Your U.S. Senator to Urge Their Opposition 
to S.510 The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act
November 19, 2010
S.510 would prohibit farmers, food producers, food manufacturing facilities, and U.S.
 importers from retaining full control of their operations, products, product
 distribution, and business records by granting unprecedented authority to the 
 Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Homeland Security. 
S. 510 is currently on the floor of the U.S. Senate and a vote on Final Passage 
 in the Senate is scheduled for November 29, 2010. Please Email your Senator
 today and let them know that Food Safety is important in rural America but
 this measure misses the target.

On March 3, 2009, Senator Richard Durbin introduced S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. Under the provisions of Title I, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, would be allowed to discontinue a facility’s registration, order a recall of a facility’s product, require owners and operators to evaluate the hazards of their food, implement and monitor preventative controls, and maintain records of such. In addition, both the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture would be required to devise, implement, coordinate, process, and make public a “Food Defense Strategy.”
Title II of the act requires the Secretaries to fund inspection of facilities, the establishment of projects to explore, evaluate, and track processed food, and train local, state, and federal government employees to comply. While Title III of the act primarily deals with imports and products produced in other countries, it additionally requires the FDA to fund and establish FDA offices in other countries, recognize third-party bodies that train and employ auditors, and do all of this on the American Taxpayer’s dime.
Although Senator Jon Tester (D) of Montana was able to amend S. 510 and reduce the burden of some small farmers and facilities, it does not fix the overbearing intent and implications of the master bill. The only folks who are exempt under the amendment are farmers who sold less that $500,000 worth of food in the previous 3-year period and whose food was sold to consumers, restaurants or grocery stores. (Third-party food brokers are subject to this measure, and are not exempted under this amendment.) Additionally, protected entities would have to sell their products in the state where the product was made, or harvested, or within 275 miles of that original site.
Currently this measure is up for final passage in the U.S. Senate and is scheduled for a vote on November 29, 2010. A similar measure, H.R. 2749, The Food Safety Enhancement Act was passed by the U.S. House last year. This measure also has increased record-keeping requirements.
Grange Policy
At the 144th National Grange Convention held recently in Charlotte, North Carolina, Grangers repeated their support for strong inspection standards on all livestock, feed, meats, and dairy products. Grangers believe the USDA and FDA should collaborate on food safety issues and that the two agencies should be given more power to order food recalls and close down firms with records of serial contamination violations.
The National Grange supports legislation to implement pathogen detection and reduction strategies based on sound science that targets micro bio-contamination by pathogens that may be harmful to consumers. Grangers urge Congress to fund the USDA to develop and implement educational programs relative to the safe handling of foods.
However, the National Grange opposes federal legislation that would presume that all food, including food produced for local market sale and consumption, should be treated as potentially hazardous and would require family farmers to produce and maintain onerous amounts of paperwork indicating what production inputs were purchased and when food produced on an individual farm will be consumed, in order to reach an unattainable goal of total traceability.
Additionally, the National Grange opposes federal legislation that would add an unnecessary layer of national bureaucratic paperwork to the business of producing food to meet local demand without demonstrating any commensurate food safety benefits to consumers, or cost reductions that benefit family farmers or their local customers.
Action Needed
Please email your U. S. Senator and urge them to oppose S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which causes undue burden to farmers and ranchers with onerous regulatory and record-keeping mandates, and although well-intentioned, misses their target of increasing food safety. The Food Safety Modernization Act is currently on the floor of the U.S. Senate and a vote on Final Passage in the Senate is scheduled for November 29, 2010. Please email your Senator today and let them know that food safety is important in rural America but this measure misses the target.
Sample E-Mail
Dear Senator___________________,
I am writing to urge your opposition to S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. As a Grange Member dedicated to healthy and sustainable agriculture, and a competitive rural America, I strongly urge you to oppose this measure that threatens the livelihood, restricts competitiveness, and seeks to bury our farmers and ranchers under unnecessary record-keeping, while missing the target of strengthening food safety.
The National Grange is the nation’s oldest agricultural and rural community organization, and has evolved to incorporate the interests of non-farm rural families and communities, as well as the traditional interests of family farmers and ranchers. It has nearly 3,000 state, local, and grassroots chapters across 40 states and the legislative program of the National Grange dates back to the late 1800’s. To us, the importance and endurance of our agriculture is just as important today as it was to our founding members in 1867.
There are currently 15 federal agencies with enforcement powers over at least 30 different laws relating to food safety. Farmers and ranchers currently work very efficiently alongside federal, state and local regulators to ensure that every guideline is followed and each law and regulation adhered to. Our farmers and ranchers are extremely concerned with the safety of their products and each day stake their name and livelihood on the quality of their products. A handful of careless farmers and regulators have placed a nation of farmers and ranchers under an unnecessary microscope and the recent salmonella outbreaks of 2009 have thrown food safety into the political spotlight.
Although I believe the intentions of S. 510 were to get a safe product from farm to fork, this measure will only bury our farmers and ranchers in agriculture with an undue burden of paperwork, while duplicating the currently successful state and local authorities who oversee compliance on-site. Additionally, the amendment by Senator Jon Tester (D) from Montana may seem to be a good fix for carving out smaller farms and producers. However, these producers can be just as likely as large entities to be affected by contamination. After all, it should not matter what the size of an operation is, which markets it sells its’ product to, or even how far away that market is – the bottom line is how safely the farm is operated.
S. 510 also calls for the FDA to fund offices in other countries, which would cost a great deal to employ when certain agricultural fixes and systems remain problematic on a domestic level. Deploying third-party entities abroad only seeks to divert funds to other countries, while we continue to have uncontrolled federal spending.
Grangers continue to dedicate their farms and ranches to putting a safe product on America’s plate and are passionate in doing so in a safe and well-regulated manner, but the passage of bills like S. 510 only succeed in creating more bureaucracy and less efficiency. In today’s economic times where agricultural profit margins are minimal, if they exist at all, our farmers and ranchers and the millions of workers whose jobs depend on this industry, need your assistance to lesson their regulatory burden, not increase it.
Again, we kindly urge your opposition to S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and thank you for your time and consideration on this matter.
Your name Your Grange number
If you have any questions or comments regarding this Action Alert, please contact Legislative Program Assistant Molly Thompson by e-mail:; or by phone: 1-888-4GRANGE, ext. 107. Thank you for your grassroots participation in the National Grange Legislative Program.

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