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Agriculture Today

Groups say FDA needs to analyze science, economic impacts

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September 18, 2013 | 4,212 views | Post a comment

AUSTIN -- Thirty-nine farmer and consumer organizations sent a letter Sept. 10, urging Congress to include a provision in the final Farm Bill that would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to do more analysis before enforcing rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act. The provision, sponsored by Rep. Dan Benishek of Michigan, was included in the version of the Farm Bill passed by the House; a similar provision had been proposed by Sen. Angus King of Maine, but was not voted on by the Senate.

According to a Sept. 10 Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance press release, the FDA’s proposed rules set standards for on-farm activities in growing and harvesting produce, as well as establishing new Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for food manufacturers, including farmers who process food on-site.

“Despite being told by Congress to base the rules on a scientific risk analysis, the FDA has failed to provide a sound scientific basis for many of the requirements, choosing instead to take an extremely fear-based approach,” said Judith McGeary, executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, a national advocacy organization that coordinated the sign-on letter.

“Farmers are allowed to establish alternatives for some of the requirements, such as those dealing with biological soil amendments and water, but only after going through the expense of conducting or finding research and testing on their own. In other words, in many cases, the farmers must do the FDA’s job in order to continue using farming methods that have been used for decades or even centuries,” added McGeary.

The letter notes that federal agencies are already required to do an economic analysis on proposed rules, but argues that the FDA’s analysis includes significant flaws.

“The FDA’s current analysis, of both the science and the economics, is inadequate,” states the letter collectively submitted by the 39 organizations. “As just one example, in analyzing the economic impacts, the FDA assumed that small and very small farms only operate 3 months out of the year, with a harvest period of only 45 days. This is simply wrong with respect to the majority of the small farms in this country.”

The letter highlighted the high costs already estimated by FDA:

“According to the FDA, the average annual cost to comply with Food Safety Modernization Act’s produce safety regulations for ‘very small farms’ will be $4,697 per year; the average cost for a ‘small farm’ will be $12,972 per year; and the average cost for a ‘large farm’ will be $30,566 per year,” notes the organizations’ letter. “These costs are simply not feasible for many farms, considering the low profitability of farming.”

With less than a month before the current Farm Bill expires, the fate of the Farm Bill remains unclear.

“Whatever happens with the Farm Bill, however, farmers and food producers are looking to Congress to address the overreaching rules proposed by FDA,” concluded McGeary.

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