Proposed Food Safety Regulations Could Hurt Small Farms

By: Liz Hayes Email
By: Liz Hayes Email

Small, local farms are concerned proposed food safety regulations could hurt their businesses.

Some farmers fear the bills aren't really about food safety, but a way for corporate farms to gain more control.

The Food Safety Modernization Act, or H.R. 875, comes at a time when tainted spinach, peanut butter and tomatoes are fresh on our minds.

It means more government regulation to keep consumers safe....or does it?

"The government is trying to put their hands on more areas of farms than they should," said Blaine Tornow.

Tornow owns a certified organic farm, with 15 acres of vegetables and medicinal herbs in Marathon County.

He says regulations fit for large-scale industrial farms shouldn't apply to him, because he's not to blame for widespread disease.

"You follow those, and most of it's large, corporate farmers," he said.

One point local farmers want to make is that small scale farms don't cause widespread disease, therefore a one size fits all approach to food safety just won't cut it.

The owners of Stoney Acres Farm near Athens sell their organic products to local farmers markets, restaurants and families.

"Since we live here, we know what's going on on the farm on a daily basis and we regulate those things ourselves and we're able to be good stewards of the land because of the scale we operate on," said Kat Becker, who along with her husband Tony Schultz, was named Young Farmer of the Year in 2008.

Schultz says this bill isn't about food safety at all, but is a mechanism to gain more control of the marketplace.

"Corporate agriculture uses it as a means to move its agenda and concentrate its market share, threatening family farms," he said.

Which could mean less locally grown food for consumers.

"When you buy locally the food is fresher, it's harvested the same day or the day before, whereas when you buy in the store it's four or five days old from California, Mexico, or now China," Shultz said.

Plus, the dollars spent on local food stay in the local economy.

All three farmers urge those interested to contact their legislators to find out what they should be concerned about, and the future of this bill.

"Everybody in this area can call Dave Obey's office, it's in Wausau and ask them what's going on, what does this bill say," said Becker.

After much controversy, it seems H.R. 875 may not pass as is....but another similar bill is already in the works.

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