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Farmers Question FDA Officials on Proposed Food Safety Rules

WAMC/Pat Bradley

Food and Drug Administration officials heard from hundreds of farmers from Vermont and New Hampshire during a listening session earlier this week on new food safety rules under consideration by the federal agency.

Nearly 250 farmers and concerned citizens traveled to Dartmouth, NH to attend the FDA listening session on the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act.  Federal officials had not originally scheduled meetings in the Northeast, but efforts by the New England congressional delegation resulted in sessions in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Jenny Nelson, Agriculture Policy Advisor to Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, explains that the act is an effort to guarantee consumer food safety.

Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association President Andy Jones is manager of the Intervale Community Farm in Burlington.  Jones lists a litany of concerns and potential problems with the proposed rules, including irrigation water testing frequencies, manure management, exemptions and on-farm produce processing.

The rules include exemptions for farms that sell less than $500,000 in produce annually, but half must go to “qualified end users.” Andy Jones says it’s confusing and giving many farmers pause.
Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg produces organic vegetables and meat. Owner David Zuckerman, who is also a Progressive Vermont state Senator, echoes regional criticism that the rules have been crafted in a one-size-fits-all mode. He thinks his farm would fall under the proposed exemptions, but may exceed them because he buys products like eggs and apples from other farms that he resells.
Sanders’ Agriculture Advisor Jenny Nelson believes the Northeast trip has been an eye-opener for the federal FDA officials.

The FDA is holding a meeting on the Food Safety Modernization Act today in Hadley MA at the at Plainville Farm, 135 Mount Warner Rd, from 1:00 to 2:30 pm.

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