Pingree testifies at Augusta hearing on food safety rules
At a Monday public hearing in Augusta attended by over 150 people, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree urged a top Obama Administration official, Michael Taylor, the Deputy Commissioner for Food Safety at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to create food safety rules that don’t place an unnecessary burden on smaller farmers that grow a variety of crops. Pingree spoke of her own experiences, as she has been involved in Maine farming and farm policy for forty years and currently owns a farm on the island of North Haven where she raises a variety of vegetables as well as chicken, turkeys, pigs and goats.
She spoke of the importance of family farms and farmers markets to our communities, of Maine’s aging population as a whole and specifically of our family farmers, and the fact that Maine is 28th in per capita income- yet more and more young people are coming into the family farm industry as their sole income.
A portion of her address:
“One-size-fits-all regulations will put New England farmers out of business. The size of regulation must match the amount of risk, and the loss of hundreds of farms cannot be an unintended consequence of the food safety rules.”
“These are not factory farms, or single commodity operations, they are family run, diversified farms. They are diversified because that has traditionally been the most successful way to yield even a modest profit – that is what enables them to stay on the land for another generation.”
“I remain very concerned about the impact of the rules on small producers and processors. Let me be clear: for operations of that scale, these additional costs will put farms and processors out of business, and it will permanently change the landscape in states like Maine. Unfortunately, the FDA’s definitions of ‘farm’ and ‘facility’ are confusing and do not provide clarity to farmers for determining whether they are subject to one or both rules. Congress did not intend for a single operation to be subject to both regulations, yet this is what FDA appears to codify with the term ‘farm mixed-type facility’.”
“Part of running a successful agricultural operation is not only growing food but also selling food and preparing it to be sold. I am concerned that many farms will come under the full weight of both rules, including farms that are involved in on-farm processing and aggregation activities.”
More via BDN:
Paul Birdsall of Penobscot’s Horsepower Farm: “These rules are unacceptable. You’re gonna be putting farms out of business.”
Ag Committee’s Rep. Brian Jones (D-Freedom): “I challenge you to point out one case of locally produced, locally sold, locally consumed produce that’s resulted in a fatality. You’re more likely to be struck by lightning.”