FDA Responds to Farmer Concerns, Releases Revised Draft Food Safety Rules

Columbus, OH—Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued revised proposed food safety regulations for farmers and food businesses under the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA). The FDA is inviting a new round of public comments to respond to the revised language.

“The FDA is to be commended for listening to farmers and the public and for realizing that a second draft was necessary,” said Amalie Lipstreu, Policy Program Coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA). “This is the first major overhaul of food safety rules in 75 years. It is critical the FDA gets it right by setting regulations that protect consumers, but do not put small farmers and processors out of business.”

The original regulations, issued in fall 2013, contained several requirements that would jeopardize sustainable and organic farmers, discourage growth of local food systems, and negatively impact the conservation of natural resources. In response, OEFFA and other state and national groups mobilized more than 18,000 farmers, consumers, and food businesses to submit comments to the FDA.

“Based on our initial review, there are some encouraging improvements. For example, the FDA has clarified that activities that happen on a farm—like packing and holding produce—should be treated the same whether the produce was grown on that farm or a neighboring farm. This is important for community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, aggregating produce from multiple farms,” said Lipstreu.

“We also are encouraged by the FDA’s reconsideration of the criteria used to determine farm size and eligibility for certain exemptions. Basing farm size on sales of covered produce, rather than total sales, is incredibly important for diversified farming operations.

“However, the FDA’s revised proposals regarding water and manure standards for produce farms will require a closer look. OEFFA and our partners will be undertaking a thorough review of the revised language in the weeks ahead to make sure that sustainable and organic farmer concerns are represented. We will continue work to ensure that the rules are finalized and implemented in a way that supports a flexible, scale- and supply-chain appropriate framework that supports the growth and success of a more sustainable food and agriculture system,” concluded Lipstreu.

The official public comment period will begin Monday, September 29. Farmers, organizations, and the public are encouraged to submit feedback during the 75 day public comment period. The revised draft rules are available at https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection under the Food and Drug Administration section.

Amalie Lipstreu, Policy Program Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208, amalie@oeffa.org
Eric Pawlowski, Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 209, eric@oeffa.org