Food Safety News: Tester Offers Hope on S. 510, Help for Small Farms

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) says he expects the Senate to approve his amendment aimed at lessening the impact of the pending food safety bill on small-scale food producers. While the fate and immediate timeline for the legislation remains highly uncertain, Tester’s office released an updated version of his amendment late last week.

“While I agree that we need to have better regulations for these multistate, huge corporations that take food off fields, throw it all together and distribute it to many states, I think the state and local entities can do a much better job (regulating) the people who are direct-marketing food,” Sen. Tester, a third-generation farmer, told reporters during a visit to PEAS Farm in Missoula, Montana Friday.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and other groups continue to lobby for the Tester amendment, which would exempt certain food facilities and farms with under $500,000 in gross annual sales from preventative control plan requirements and exempt direct-market farmers from the coming produce safety regulations. The measure, co-sponsored by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), has been the subject of intense negotiations, but was ultimately not included in the final manager’s package for the bill.

Carol Tucker-Foreman, a fellow at the Consumer Federation of America’s Food Polity Institute, told Food Safety News in August that she was surprised some of Tester’s language wasn’t included. Tucker-Foreman believes at least portions of the amendment will ultimately be added to the Senate bill.

“People don’t want to hurt small farmers and farmers markets, but they also don’t want to keep getting sick,” said Tucker-Foreman in an interview with Food Safety News after the manager’s amendment was released. “If you put aside the rants, the language of the bill will be there. They are really taking the middle course here.”

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