Monday, March 30, 2009

What's up with H.R. 875?

A note from the mothership, Slow Food USA...

Everybody’s asking: “what’s up with H.R. 875 ( a bill proposed in response to recent large-scale and well-publicized food safety problems)? Why am I getting hysterical emails and phone calls?” On this matter we direct you to our trusted colleagues.

1. Food and Water Watch breaks down the bill clearly and effectively, letting us know what it does and doesn‘t do. Their verdict=don’t panic, but do pay attention.

“There is plenty of evidence that one-size-fits-all regulation only tends to work for one size of agriculture – the largest industrialized operations. That’s why it is important to let members of Congress know how food safety proposals will impact the conservation, organic, and sustainable practices that make diversified, organic, and direct market producers different from agribusiness. And the work doesn’t stop there – if Congress passes any of these bills, the FDA will have to develop rules and regulations to implement the law, a process that we can’t afford to ignore.

But simply shooting down any attempt to fix our broken food safety system is not an approach that works for consumers, who are faced with a food supply that is putting them at risk and regulators who lack the authority to do much about it.”

2. Tom Philpott, over at Grist urges those of us in the sustainable food movement to resist baseless hysteria and focus on what’s there, quoting the Organic Consumer Association and saying “Quite sensibly, the OCA wants Congress to avoid “one-size-fits-all legislation.” Regulations that make sense for a 1000-acre spinach farm could push a diversified operation that includes spinach in its crop mix out of business. Sustainable-food advocates should oppose H.R. 875 until it adds scale-appropriate language. But effective opposition does not mean indulging in fictional rants about it. There’s no evidence that the bill aims to end farming; insisting that it does destroys credibility.”

1 comment:

Eric Reuter said...

Viewing this bill from the farm side, and having read almost nothing online except the actual text of the bill, I reached the conclusion that this bill was exceedingly dangerous. I think it's difficult for folks not actively engaged in farming to understand how many barriers we already face from well-meaning government action.

I agree that the bill does not intend to "end farming" and there is no conspiracy behind it. That does not change the deep danger it presents.

I posted a long, and I feel reasonable, analysis of the bill a while back on my blog. Those interested can read it here:

I just reread it and stand by everything I said in it. There are loopholes and vagueness in that bill that would allow agencies to take whatever direction they wanted in enforcement, and we've seen over and over what happens when well-meaning legislation gives too much power to disconnected bureaucrats.

Our food safety problems stem from the fundamental nature of a centralized industrial food system, not from anything inspections, registrations, and agencies can regulate out of existence.