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S.510 Law Could Criminalize Small Farms

Written By: Dawn Gifford  |  Posted: Monday, September 27th, 2010

The U.S. Senate has been working on S.510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. The Act tries to address the worst problems in U.S. agriculture, but as it stands, the bill threatens to undermine the best things in U.S. agriculture- small farmers producing for local markets. S.510 is a well-meaning attempt to address the genuine problems of contamination from foodborne pathogens and complications in prevention and intervention caused by large, industrialized food distribution systems. All of the well-publicized incidents of contamination in recent years- spinach, peppers, peanuts, hamburger-occurred in industrialized food supply chains that span national-and even international-boundaries. An exciting development in agriculture and rural economies in recent years is the growing desire and enthusiasm of consumers for buying food direct from farmers and producers, and with that, new businesses and new farmers are entering agriculture. S.510 will effectively kill this positive trend. Instead of effectively protecting us from the filthy conditions inherent in factory farming, the "one-size-fits-all" regulatory policy in S.510 would undermine the rapidly growing local foods movement by imposing unnecessary, burdensome regulations on small farms and food processors- everyone from your local CSA, to the small bakers, jam makers, and people making fermented vegetables to sell at the local farmers market. The Act casts a shadow over farms that even minimally process their crops and sell them to individuals, restaurants, food coops, groceries, schools or to wholesale markets. Many farmers unable to bear the costs of compliance will be shut out of these important new markets.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is focusing on four main problems:

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