Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Local farmers worry about FDA restrictions

Betty Albert

Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011, and it appears that with the call for comments on their lengthy regulations that were due Nov. 15, the FDA intends to exercise the significant power the bill gave them.

At the time, Rep. Tom McClintock’s take on the bill was:  Dec. 21, 2010 — HR 2751 HR 2751 — Food Safety and Modernization Act: “NO. Since your grocery bills are obviously much too low, Congress has a solution: hire at least 17,800 more government workers to micromanage every conceivable aspect of food production and distribution. Cost to taxpayers? At least $1.4 billion plus ‘such sums as may be necessary.’”

In Placerville, Chris Hoover, manager of Hooverville Orchards, nodded knowingly.

“We’ve seen these restrictions increase over the years, and have tried to keep ahead of the rules. We consider ourselves a small farm, but we are not exempt. We have to document everything and in great detail. It’s harder and harder to do business with this much required paperwork,” Hoover said.

Hooverville sells to Raley’s and other big retailers, and appears at farmers markets across the state as well. Open every day of the year, this family owned, 75-acre 40-year-old farm produces all the fruit that is sold under the Hooverville name. Although their produce is not certified organic, Hoover proclaims it to be as natural as possible, given all the government restrictions currently imposed.

Hooverville does not fall under the Tester-Hagan amendment to the FSMA bill. This amendment exempts from the 2010 regulations farmers and food producers who sell less than $500,000 annually and who sell more than half of their products directly to consumers or local retailers. With the newly issued proposed regulations, this exemption for smaller farmers is under threat. The FDA wants to judge farmers’ sales based on all their sales, not just the food subject to regulation.

The 144-page proposed regulations, as summarized by Judith McGeary, executive director of the national Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance:

• Leaves too much discretion in the hands of individual FDA officials to revoke exemptions;
• Do not give small farmers and local food producers enough opportunity to respond to a decision to end their exemption and;
• Do not give small farmers and local food producers enough time to comply with the rules if their exemption is revoked.

In addition, even though an excellent track record may exist for farmers using biological soil amendments, the proposed regulation asks a farmer to wait six weeks in between applying compost and harvesting.  Manure would be required to wait nine months before harvest and the FDA goes further, treating all of the following as manure:

• Compost made without specific heating periods (“static compost”);
• Vermicompost or worm castings;
• Compost teas with any additives, even simple molasses or kelp meal;
• Any compost that does not meet the precise methods and testing requirements specified in the rule.

Generic e.coli is not a pathogen or disease-causing organism. Other forms of e.coli are what the FDA is after….farmers might be required to water test and spend thousands of dollars testing something that wouldn’t make a person sick, even forced to use chemicals, find a different water source, etc., according to the proposed regulations.

Paul Mader and Dollie Wolfe own a small organic, but uncertified farm in Placerville, dependent on organic matter for their worms, and worm castings. They also use other forms of aged compost, from farm prunings, aged manure, etc.

“These restrictions would make any crop unusable, “ Mader said. “We have researched the best scientific methods for composting, feeding and raising the worms.”

Mader uses a “windrow system” to feed worms and harvest eggs and worm castings for use in the garden.

“We are conscious of self-sufficiency and live only on what we make in the farmers market each year,” Mader said. “We want our clean produce and worm castings to be available to the public. We don’t want the public to have to buy chemically treated produce. This defeats all purposes of food safety, agricultural sustainability. and environmental capability. Government overregulation could be the ruination of small farming as we know it.”

Gerado Perez is the owner of Perez’ Red Shack, a 13-acre, organically certified exempt farm in Placerville. Together with his family, Perez has been able to grow his farm and produce to more sizable and profitable proportions with direct marketing to the local Raley’s store as well as seven farmers markets per week. There are many difficult, time-consuming and tedious documentation requirements of the CCOF, and Perez says that he isn’t looking for any more paperwork coming from FDA restrictions.

“Costs go up every year. The price of organic seeds alone for a farm my size could cost well over $10,000. It looks like they might put us out of business one way or the other,” Perez said of the proposed regulations.

For producers who don’t qualify for the Tester-Hagan exemption or whose exemption is revoked, the Preventive Controls rule requires that any business that packs, holds, processes, or manufactures food creates a Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Control (HARPC) plan. For example:
• A farm that dehydrates fruits, makes pickles, or mills grains;
• Two farms running a joint CSA and handling each other’s produce;
• A farm that stores food from any other farm or producer (even if they do no processing);
• All sorts of “food hubs” that distribute food from multiple local producers.
A producer subject to this rule must develop a HARPC plan, despite the large number of low-risk, normal activities. Developing such plans can cost thousands of dollars – up to $20,000 – for a small operation in the first year. The rule then requires annual “verification” that the plan is working, with records of this verification process and its findings, at continued significant expense.
• Text of the Produce Safety Rule:
Text of the Preventive Controls/ HARPC rule:

Special to the Democrat


Discussion | 10 comments

  • Phil VeerkampDecember 25, 2013 - 7:07 pm

    I wonder. How much famine would it take to reorder the FDA?

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  • TataDecember 28, 2013 - 3:46 pm

    Unfortunately I'm afraid that is what's going to happen. Paperwork isn't going to feed you.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Phil VeerkampDecember 25, 2013 - 7:29 pm

    This only "fits" here via the overarching arrogance officialdom ~~~ Salute and move along. ~~~ LINK - Insufficiently Servile

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  • Phil VeerkampDecember 25, 2013 - 7:32 pm

    . . . arrogance OF officialdom . . .

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  • cookie65December 27, 2013 - 7:53 am

    I can deaI with the reality that we are surrounded by self proclaimed intellectuals who reject every last shred of historical fact of leftism leading directly to tyranny. The notion of such individuals has always been that socialism/leftism/progressivism/communism/marxism just hasn't been done right or implemented by the "right" people. The same fleeting dream drives every last one of them. The "hope" and newly added "change" which leads to equal outcome and fairness. From those according to their means, to those according their need. So here we sit watching the ever encroaching slithering of leftist tyranny and they remain completely untroubled by it. In fact they are encouraged by it. That utopia is just beyond their reach and they can almost taste it. So what if freedom gets redefined to mean nothing whatsoever. The destruction of Prosperity? Who cares. Liberty? It was overrated. Mental illness combined with the most astonishing amount of greed, selfishness, arrogance and flat out brainwashed indoctrination to ever have possession of so many at one time in history.

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  • Paddy O'furnitureDecember 27, 2013 - 8:45 am

    Where are all the lefty comments on this? This is precisely what they ordered in voting for collectivists.

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  • Dink LaneDecember 29, 2013 - 4:12 pm

    I found this article most interesting since I buy Hooverville produce. (The name rings of the working poor of the 1930s). The Hooverville people are serious farmers. They make more than half-a-million in their sales, and it is their major business. I commend them for being successful. ........ Because they are successful, they are NO longer considered a "small farmer"...... they are a professional grower, and therefore they must meet the guidelines of being PROFESSIONAL.... We would expect Sunnyvale Milk to be safe (and they have to meet these same regulations.)..... why wouldn't we want any major-professional farmer to meet the same quality??? After the food scares with lettuce RECALLS on Sept. 30, 2011, Aug. 19, 2012 and Jul. 26, 2013....... and the Strawberry and Spinach RECALL on Aug. 10, 2011 and another Spinach RECALL in Sept. 24, 2013..... and don't forget the Costco produce and packaged lettuce recalls...... I want to know my grandchildren are eating SAFE food.... These inspection costs are paid by permits and various fees..... do we really want to GIVE -UP food safety when kids eat these products at school?

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  • Phil VeerkampDecember 29, 2013 - 5:41 pm

    Dink, you assert, "They make more than half-a-million in their sales . . ." (Hoovers) The article says, "Hooverville does not fall under the Tester-Hagan amendment . . . exempts from the 2010 regulations farmers and food producers who sell less than $500,000 . . ." Dink, your source please? My quick math says that since they sell less than 1/2 million then they make substantially less than 1/2 million. But putting aside the difficult math issues, Dink, I doubt on an intuitive level that these new inspections will increase your grandchildren's safety by any measurable level.

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  • Dink LaneDecember 29, 2013 - 4:37 pm

    One more thing..... McClintock's "$1.4 billion plus" cost? I could not find that number in any of the CBO reports..... I looked at the HR 2642 (the 2013 bill) and guess what I saw in the House's new bill? the Republican lead House (sponsored by the Agricultural committee that Ol' "Fiscally-Responsible" McClintock fought to get on) ..... Showed how Food inspections have dropped like a rock since "Sequester" ........ BUT ....... the Bill jacks up 'Crop Insurance,' .by 100s of Millions at the cost of Taxpayer $$$.... So NO food safety for our children....... but Crop insurance for "Grain" and "Cotton" farmers who do NOT make 70 to 100% of their projected yield (and for the last 7 years... they haven't made more than 30% of their projected yield).... a guaranteed taxpayer SUBSIDIES... Could Hooverville get in on this TAXPAYER $$$ give-away?

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  • Alex NettoDecember 29, 2013 - 8:37 pm

    I wish I was more educated in politics so I could get in on some of these . The regulars like phill and the gang crack me up and remind me that this community still has "good ol boys" if you will . I do my best to keep those values instilled in my generation ( I'm only 29) but sad to say most people my age are more metro / GQ than small town community oriented. Unfortunately every time I try to educate myself on politics I get so mad and sick to my stomach that I have to just walk away. I know it is vital to know what is going on if you ever expect to change anything so I try to suck it up and soak up all I can , so hopfully one day I can put in my 2 cents on some of these topics. But I do know right from wrong and I do know that farmers are the backbone of this country and it makes me fighting mad every time another issue comes up that makes it harder and for some impossible for them to continue with there farming . I'm scared for my kids due to the fact that this world is falling apart and seems to only get worse as time goes by. Trans gender bathroom laws and the overwhelming dependency on computers and technology WILL be one of the major advances that end up causing us major distress before all is said and done. The other will be the fact that we won't have ANY FARMERS !!! Umm ...... Food people ? You know that thing you need to survive ??!! Yea it comes from farmers. I thank my god that I know how to grow and hunt for my food so my family will never go without but I'm sure as hell not taking in any city dwellers when it all hits the fan. It's scary to know the majority of voters don't share ANY of the views that my self and people like me do. We're screwed folks.

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