27 July 2010

Senate Bill 510: One Size Does Not Fit All

Senate Bill 510, also known as the FDA Food Modernization Act, seeks to make food safer for consumers. Portland Farmers Market believes in healthy, affordable and safe food for all, but worries how Senate Bill 510 will affect our vendors. At issue: As written, the proposed law’s ‘one size fits all’ regulations will hurt family farms, food related small businesses and agricultural entrepreneurs or, as you know them, the growers, ranchers, farmers and food artisans who make up Portland Farmers Market.

PFM Executive Director Ann Forsthoefel on Senate Bill 510:

Last week at the Buckman Market we had the privilege of hosting a group from the Oregon Sustainability Experience. It was a beautiful evening and the participants were very interested in learning more about direct farming and how it makes a difference in the community. Jamie Reckers, the site coordinator for this market, proudly shared that there are 17 farmers participating at this market who sell directly to the residents of this urban neighborhood. This fresh produce that has been harvested in the last 24 hours is being sold to approximately 1,500 shoppers weekly. Jamie also shared that the total acreage under the care of these farmers and orchardists is approximately 800 acres. I could tell by the reaction of some of the participants that they were impressed with the amount of land under tillage as well as the amount of shoppers in attendance each week.

Raised in rural Ohio where my next-door neighbor alone farmed over 1,000 acres of soybeans, corn, and wheat, I knew that 800 acres was not a lot. What is impressive though is that our grower’s 800 acres of row crops produces a stunning variety of fresh, vibrant fruits and vegetables, as compared to the 1,000 acres of commodity crops grown by my former neighbor. Our local farmers are feeding people not feedlot animals or cars.

I began to wonder, why are we even debating on Senate Bill 510?

The family farmers participating at our markets are not in the same category as commodity farmers—not by a long shot. The largest farm operation in the United States is Farmers National Company (FNC). In 2008, FNC had 1.2 million acres in production, represented over 3,600 farms and ranches under its management, and had 140 full time employees in farm management services and an additional 100 real-estate agents. It is simply mind blowing that Senate Bill 510 would require our small family farms to follow the same regulations as this mega-operation.

Senate Bill 510 will not be a financial hardship for FNC, but I cannot say the same for our farmers. The Tester-Hagan Amendment seeks to exclude farms and food businesses with revenues below $500,000 from the new produce standards and preventive controls in the bill. These smaller entities would continue to be regulated under existing local, state and federal law. I am hopeful this amendment will succeed in a floor vote, as it will provide insurance against the one-size-fits-all rules that could be potentially harmful to the family farms and small food businesses that nourish our community.

Please contact your senator today.

We urge you to read, share, email, post, link, comment and most of all contact your senator in support of the Tester (Jon, D-MT, the Senate’s only farmer)-Hagan Amendment that exempts small scale processors and direct marketing farms from the proposed law. Contact info can be found at congress.org or below:

OR Jeff Merkley: merkley.senate.gov, (202)224-3753; 503-326-3386
OR Ron Wyden: wyden.senate.gov, (202)224-5244; 503-326-7525

WA Patty Murray: murray.senate.gov, (202)224-2621; 360-696-7797
WA Maria Cantwell: cantwell.senate.gov, (202)224-3441; 360-696-7838