Seventy nonprofit organizations, along with more than 12,000 farmers, food businesses, and concerned individuals, submitted a joint letter today to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), expressing their objections to the FDA’s proposed rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The effort was coordinated by the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA).

The joint letter focused on the Tester-Hagan provision of FSMA, which exempts small-scale, local farmers and food businesses from some of the major new federal regulations.

“Congress clearly recognized that small-scale, direct-marketing producers do not pose the same threat to food safety as the industrialized food system that has produced all of the large, high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks,” noted Judith McGeary, a rancher and Executive Director of FARFA.  “Unfortunately, FDA seems intent on expanding its authority over these low-risk, high-quality producers.”

FDA’s proposed rules would allow a local FDA official to revoke a producers’ exemption if the official claimed there were conditions at the farm or facility that posed a risk of foodborne illness. The agency would not be required to present any proof of its allegations, and the farmer would not be entitled to a hearing.

“What sane person would start a small farm, knowing that he or she might have to comply with thousands of dollars of extra expense based on a bureaucrat’s say-so and no real due process?” asked McGeary.  “This is going to be devastating for the growing local food movement, and the millions of American consumers who want more access, not less, to healthy local foods.”

The letter states that the proposed rules “impose unnecessary and hasty deadlines for compliance that will effectively shut down any producer whose exemption is revoked.”

The signatory organizations represent not only both conventional and organic farmers, but also consumer health and food access organizations, joined by thousands of individuals from every state.

“FDA has the chance to show that it really does pay attention to what the public says, by making changes before the final rule. If not, then we will look to our elected officials to remind the agency that it has to respect the will of Congress,” concluded McGeary.

A copy of the letter is posted at http://farmandranchfreedom.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/tester-hagan-letter-sign-on-2014.pdf.