Time to Stand Up for Small Farmers

Time to Stand Up for Small Farmers

farmers market

Photo: Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr.

People who want to eat healthier these days often try to buy some of their food not from grocery stores but directly from small sustainable farmers, whether through a local farmers market, a community supported agriculture (CSA) program or even by driving out to a farmstand.

The farm-to-table movement has become so big that the Department of Agriculture has listed it as one of the top food trends of recent years.

Yet, when it comes to small farms, what the government gives with one hand, sometimes they seem to take away with the other.

That seems to be what’s happening with new rules that another federal agency, the Food and Drug Administration, is considering for food safety.

Who doesn’t want safe food? Big industrial farms require a lot of expense to operate cleanly and a lot of inspections and paperwork to check up on these huge operations.

But these new FDA proposals go beyond what’s necessary to ensure the safety of food produced on small farms. Instead, the rules go into regulation overkill that threatens to drown sustainable family farmers in mountains of paperwork while leaving small farms open to capricious enforcement actions that could put them out of business.

The danger is particularly stark for organic farmers. As the Alliance for Natural Health explains,

As we’ve pointed out in the past, organic food is often the first to be blamed for foodborne illness. Remember the European E. coli outbreak? Organic farms were blamed with no evidence to support the contention. And now there is no need to prove that a farm is the source of the illness. Their exemption

[from rules for big industrial farms] can be revoked on mere suspicion.

The proposed FDA regulations pose threats to small farmers who want to diversify too. If you value family farmers and want to continue to be able to buy food produced organically and sustainably, then I’d encourage you to learn about the FDA rules and then sign the petition against them.