Missoulian: Sen. Tester touts food safety exemption for small farmers in Missoula

Sen. Jon Tester met with his fellow farmers on Friday to explain how he’d kept them out of new federal food regulations.

“When I first saw the bill, it didn’t take into consideration farmers markets and direct marketing,” Tester said during a visit to the Good Food Store in Missoula. “In the end, it would have eliminated your ability to sell at farmers markets.”

S. 510 imposes new requirements for food safety and quality. While he agreed the bill is necessary to keep dangers like salmonella and E. coli contamination out of the nation’s food supply, Tester said it shouldn’t wipe out the nation’s small farmers in the process. His amendment provided several exemptions for local producers – those who sell less than $500,000 a year or deliver within a 275-mile radius of their operation.

In a 74-25 vote this week the Senate agreed to take up the House-passed bill, which Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., also supports.

The original bill would have imposed federal paperwork and fees that are already covered by local and state agencies. That would have hurt dozens of small producers who supply the Good Food Store, according to store spokesman Layne Rolston. A four-page list of vendors covers everything from gluten-free baking mixes to steak and wine, as well as eggs and vegetables.

Read the whole article »