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I cannot emphasize enough how poorly written legislation can harm the smallest farm enterprises. Please if you can spare a few minutes, read this letter from PASA and then contact your representatives urging them to support the outlined amendments. This has the potential to seriously hinder the buy local community farming movements that are taking place if not written well. I could not do a better job of outlining the concerns so I’ve included the well written e-mail from PASA for you to read.
To: All PASA Members
From: Brian Snyder, Executive Director
I’m going to make this as succinct as possible, while also giving you enough background to understand what’s going on. In brief, the Food Safety bill in the House of Representatives (HR 2749) is expected to move as early as tomorrow (if no bumps in the road), but certainly by early next week. The goal of the Energy and Commerce Committee (E&C) is to move this bill under “suspension,” meaning with limited debate and no amendments, which requires a two-thirds vote, and to do so before the August recess starts in two weeks. Delay of healthcare legislation at this point means they will try to move forward on food safety first, aggressively and somewhat undercover of the healthcare debate.
PASA has been centrally involved in consulting with E&C on this legislation since March, along with our friends at MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assoc.), NSAC (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition) and others across the country. Last week, PASA farmer member Nick Maravell (Potomac, Maryland) testified in a hearing on the bill before the House Ag Committee and did an incredible job of raising the most important outstanding issues.
To date we have achieved some things we can be proud of, including exemption for direct marketers from most traceability requirements (including for sales to restaurants and grocery stores), and now including some clear language in the bill to define what on-farm processing activities might be exempt from FDA registration as well. Things are still in flux as I write, but we believe all such processing will be exempt as long as 50% or more of sales (including by Internet and mail order) are made directly to individuals (i.e. retail, as opposed to wholesale). And a huge gain just this week will likely be another exemption on sales of feedstuffs for livestock from one farmer to another, which had been included in the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 (thaaat’s right…) as an activity requiring registration. There have been other gains in specific wording of the bill, too detailed to enumerate in this email right now.
But we’re still disappointed that the fee being assessed to eligible businesses, including some on farms, will be the flat rate of $500 instead of our preferred sliding scale for smaller operations, including a minimum size below which no fee would be charged. We in fact would prefer to see a much higher fee paid by the largest food processing companies, from which most food safety issues seem to emanate in any case — but that may not be achievable at this point. We also have other language we’d like to see in the bill that would focus attention on high risk aspects of food production, protect organic farmers from duplicative paperwork and expand the research agenda into more diversified systems. All of these concerns are contained in an amendment being sponsored by Representatives Farr, Kaptur and others that E&C must deal with if they expect to get their two-thirds vote to limit debate.
So, we’re asking ALL of you to take a little time out of your busy summer schedules to help advance the sustainable farming agenda with respect to food safety even more than what we’ve been able to on our own. Call your representatives, and maybe a few others, and express strong support for the exemptions now contained in HR 2749 for direct marketing, and ask them to support the Farr-Kaptur Amendment that would do even more to focus food safety efforts on the REAL problem areas. To be clear, they will need to insist that language of the amendment get into the bill before it is introduced on the floor. Also, let them know what you think of a system that would charge a small on-farm processing operation the same fee as facilities operated by the largest food companies in the world! Following are links where you can find contact info for members of the House of Representatives:
Find your Rep: http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW_by_State.shtml
Phone listing: http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/mcapdir.html
This has already been a long slog, and if this bill passes we’ll now have to begin working with the Senate, and then a likely Conference Committee, to make further improvements. As usual, we are greatly outnumbered and outsized ($$) by groups that would rather see sustainable farmers pay the price of food system sins that have originated elsewhere. But we’ve been here before, and prevailed. A few minutes of your time today or early tomorrow could make sure that common sense wins out again!
Thanks for your care and attention to this important matter.
Executive Director, PASA
While waiting for the electrician I noticed a yellow/orangish colored thing in the grass. Upon first glance I thought it was a carrot, but then I processed that thought some more. This *carrot* is nowhere near the garden and why would it be just lying on the ground? So I decided to inspect further. Upon initial inspection I realized it was not a carrot but rather a lightweight hollow *thing.* It’s flesh, when squeezed, was not unlike a crisp curcurbit flower however it had a most terrible odor. This thing stunk, the smell reminded me of a long National Express bus journey from Edinburgh to Exeter when a drunk man stinking of stale beer and even more of stale urine sat beside me for the long journey finishing by leaving a puddle of urine in his seat when getting of the bus at Manchester. That is what this smelled of… dirty Mancunian. When Ian got home from work I had him give his analysis. Him being a dirty Wiganer I figured he would know a dirty Mancunian if he saw one… Well, he had no idea what the thing was but only that it stunk and he thought it looked somewhat phallic.
We had a look around to see if we could find any more of these things and then went home. I having never seen anything like it, on a hunch looked in my mushroom book. After perusing all the pages the closest thing I can come up with is the Elegant Stinkhorn. I’m not 100% convinced because there was no slime on top but it was hollw, simlar colored, the right size, and definately stinky.
Here are some shots I took…
We have taken some time off from the computer and have been spending much more time outside working, all apologies for being lax with the blog. Things we’ve done or are working on are selling the vast majority of our stock. We have kept back a few GOS and some of the Tamworths and we have sold most of the goats. Its been tough because its hard to decide to size down and emotions sometime come into play. We decided earlier this summer to downsize to free up more time to improve infrastructure. We have dug lines and assisted the electrician in putting in electric to the land. Even the pigs and dog’s joined in.
Currently, as I type, I’m waiting on the electrical inspector to co
me out and approve the work.Then we will have electric to run some permanent lines and for general comfort issues.
We are still getting quotes on wells so we don’t have to haul water daily allowing us to set up automatic waterers. The sawmilling has been slow becuase we have not had the tractor freed up from the backhoe attachment and its harder to manuver small paths with the extra stuff on a tractor, plus you can’t really skid logs well with it on. So as soon as the electrical inspection clears we will be cutting more wood.
I’ve spent the past few evenings reading Michal Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma which is an interesting read. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in food and agriculture.
We haven’t had the opportunity to see Food Inc. due to the limited distribution however it seems to be along the same vein as the Omnivore’s diemma and something which we hope will be at a theater near us rather soon.
The pigs that we have kept are growing nicely. We’ve been moving the adult pigs weekly as that had been sufficient given the lower numbers and dry ground. Now that the rain is back I anticipate our weekend we be spent setting up new paddocks and moving everyone again as the wet ground makes for easy rooting and isn’t able to stand up to pigs as well as the dry. Whenever I ead back out I’ll try to get a picture of this same view today to show how much it has been trampled since the rains started.