Small farm advocates are getting a second chance to influence food safety regulations in the United States. In response to public comments, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced it would reconsider sweeping changes to food safety policy.
After a number of serious food scares from foods like spinach and peanut butter, Congress demanded more accountability from farmers and passed the Food Safety Modernization Act. According to Brian Snyder, president of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, some of the proposed rules were unfair to small farmers. Since the rules have yet to take effect, they made their voices heard.
"What we did, and what a number of organizations across the country did, was to motivate farmers to get up to the regulations so we could get ahead if it and prevent some of these unintended consequences from happening," he said.
For example, one rule regulated the use of fresh manure and compost on farms, another required detailed testing of water. Snyder says that while these rules make sense for big farms, they're also expensive and not necessary for small farms.
"It often is much more difficult for farmers who are just figuring out things on a local level to deal with regulations that the bigger companies have people on staff to deal with," he said.
Snyder said the regulations could force small farmers out of business, or cause them to rely on more conventional—but less environmentally friendly—farming techniques. Based on these concerns, the FDA is revisiting its proposed rules. Snyder said he and others are in talks with regulators. They're hoping the concerns of small farmers are addressed once the rules are finalized next year.