Missoulian: Tester visits PEAS farm to discuss food safety bill amendments

As harbingers of harvest season gusted in on a cool Rattlesnake Valley wind, Montana Sen. Jon Tester took a moment on Friday afternoon to plant a few last seeds of support for his amendments to Senate Bill 510, the so-called Food Safety Bill.

Speaking to a small gathering of reporters and food activists at the PEAS Farm in the Rattlesnake, Tester said his amendments would protect small farmers and ranchers from overly burdensome federal regulation, without undercutting the bill’s intent to create a more transparent, accountable and safe system for food producers in America.

“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,” said Tester.

The Food Safety Bill would give greater power to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to recall tainted food, increase inspections of food processors and require producers to follow stricter safety standards.

Tester’s amendments would, in essence, exempt from those new regulations any farmers and ranchers who earn less than $500,000 in annual gross sales or who sell to consumers, restaurants or through other direct channels within a 400-mile radius. Small farms and ranches would still be regulated by state and local agencies, as well as existing Federal laws.

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