Organic Farmers Bristle at FDA Regs

Sunday, 23 Feb 2014 02:21 PM

By Elliot Jager

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Small organic farm owners say they may have to go out of business because they can't comply with food-safety requirements imposed by Congress and now being enforced by the Food and Drug Administration, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The rules are intended to make the food supply safer from pollution, infection and tampering. The FDA is implementing the 2010 Food Safety Modernization Act, which was enacted in response to reports that some 3,000 people were dying annually from contaminated food, and many more were taken ill, Breitbart reported.

In 2011, 33 people died from eating infected cantaloupes.

The new regulations would, however, make it problematic for farmers to use house-made fertilizers or creek water for crop irrigation.

Dave Runsten, policy director for Community Alliance with Family Farmers in Davis, Calif., said consumer groups behind the enforcement initiative don't understand farming and will drive farms out of business with their "one-size-fits-all regulations," according to the Times.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said she wondered if the regulation writers had "ever set foot on a farm."

Some small farmers, for example, fertilize their land with manure made from chicken waste. But composting the manure for the length of time demanded by a draft FDA rule would be financially prohibitive. So, too, requirements to keep animals away from vegetable crops, according to the Times.

The National Organic Coalition has asked for greater flexibility in the application of the law and for funding programs that would provide a "modest level of assistance" to help organic farms meet the FDA requirements.

Meanwhile, Don Bessemer, owner of the last working farm in Akron, Ohio, has given up tilling his fields and has laid off 30 workers. He told the Akron Beacon Journal that he was ready to fight pests and drought, but drew the line at battling bureaucrats, Breitbart reported.

The news is not all bad for the organic industry. The farm bill passed last month provides new crop insurance provisions, incentives to transition to organic agriculture, and funding for research, Politico reported.

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