We urge everyone out there who has not already contacted our Senators to please do fist thing in the morning! The future of small family farms and local food is at stake!
Senator Harry Reid
Senator John Ensign
On Nov. 17, the Senate is finally set to vote on the controversial bill (s.510), and small-scale and organic farmers urgently need two important amendments so the new regulations don’t place huge financial burdens on small farmers.
Without these two important amendments — currently opposed by all the big names in agribusiness — small farmers will not be protected from inappropriate regulations meant to curtail the largest and most likely culprits of food safety outbreaks in the U.S.: giant, consolidated agribusinesses and their massive processing partners.
For those who have followed this debate closely, one needs to only consider that earlier this week a Who’s Who of Big Ag sent Congress a letter demanding that your Senators not allow the Tester Amendment nor the Manager’s Amendments to pass.
The battle lines are drawn, with the American Meat Institute, National Chicken Council, National Meat Association, National Pork Producers Council and the National Turkey Federation once again railing against small-scale family farms and local food production.
It is clear that we need food safety legislation. However, without the Tester-Hagan Amendment, small farmers will be subject to “one size fits all” food safety regulations that will unfairly subject them to the same standards as Tyson, Smithfield, DeCoster and the worst food safety abusers.
Sustainable Ag groups such as the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) have been hard at work for the past 18 months on this bill, protecting the interests of small farmers and we need to support their efforts.
Farmer Protections from The Tester-Hagan Amendment
The first and most important provision is the Tester-Hagan amendment, which provides an exemption for family farmers who gross less than $500,000 and sell direct to farmers markets, restaurants, customers and local stores within 400 miles of their farm/processing facility. As the only organic farmer in the U.S. Senate, John Tester has made sure that this amendment protects the growing local food movement and allows small and beginning farmers the opportunity to grow the most economically vibrant part of agriculture, without excessive fees or paperwork that could harm smaller-scale producers.
The Manager’s Amendment
In addition, the Manager’s Amendment, which includes 5 vital amendments, would protect small-scale farmers from burdensome paperwork, offer farmers competitive grants for food safety training, allow them to engage in co-mingling of products from multiple farms in processing, reduce paperwork and excessive traceability requirements, and protect wildlife and wildlife habitat.
While we understand that there are fears from many members within the sustainable food and agriculture community regarding S. 510, only the Tester-Hagan Amendment and the Manager’s Amendment stand to offer real protections to small-scale local and organic farmers that are at the center of a resurgence in agriculture today, while protecting all of America’s food consumers.
To help bring this issue a little closer to home please understand that this bill could harm the MAJORITY of the co-op’s small scale producers. Here is one of the emails that we received this evening from local producer Hannah Tangeman of Hulsman Ranch:
I know there will be very little time when you guys get this but hope you might be able to make a few calls or send a mass email to your members. This would certainly affect people like me and I hope that the Tester amendment is approved or it will be more difficult for little people.
We have all helped to save the Organic Division of the Nevada Department of Agriculture (two years in a row) from being cut out of our state’s budget. Now is the time to stand up as Nevadan’s and let the Senate know that we need our small family farms to thrive and be well in order for our people to be well. THINGS DO GROW HERE!