I’m getting e-mail about a new bill authored by Rosa DeLauro, HR875, claiming that it will mean an end to small farms and organic food, leading to the corporatization of farming. In doing some research this morning, I found little coverage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) outside of advocacy-group websites. Glenn Beck, however, did a lengthy segment on the issue this weekend:
The problem with Glenn Beck is that he’s one of the New Populists, a class of pundits that get ratings by claiming The End Is Nigh. It might be, but you need some independent corroboration before selling all your worldly possessions and heading for the wooden shack in the hills.
Some of what is claimed in this segment seems correct. The new Food Safety Administration, which would get created by the FSMA by merging the USDA with some elements of the FDA, does not define “farm” at all. In fact, the definition of “food production facility” appears to give the federal government the widest possible authority:
The term ‘food production facility’ means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.
That would include family farms of the kind discussed in the Beck segment. Why is this important? The reporting and bookkeeping requirements appear rather onerous for small producers, especially locals. The FSMA would require producers to “track the food in commerce” without defining clearly what that means. Would that require farmers who bring produce to local, direct-sale markets to get names and addresses of their customers, as claimed in this segment? It seems unclear, but the record requirements appear to have that much leeway.
The effect of this legislation could push locals out of the business altogether in favor of large corporations that can handle reporting requirements more efficiently. That would be rather ironic, since the impetus DeLauro used to push FSMA was a peanut contamination at a larger producer that sold its products to hundreds of food producers, spreading salmonella around the nation and killing nine people. The FSMA appears at first blush to benefit big producers of the type that created the salmonella outbreak in the first place.
We need a lot more information on FSMA before Congress takes a vote on it. Perhaps our national media might think to give this a little more coverage, considering its potential impact. At least Glenn Beck seems interested in the topic.
Update: Lady Logician took a look at this last week.