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Food Safety Bill Will Not Make Food Safer, Will Increase Food Costs and Budget Deficit

1:10 PM, Nov 29, 2010 • By JIM PREVOR
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This amendment makes the bill a laughing stock from a food safety perspective. There is no evidence that the size of the farm has any impact on the percentage of the farm’s produce that is contaminated with pathogens. In fact, Tester has made clear the amendment is about ideology, not food safety, by saying things such as this: “Small producers are not raising a commodity, but are raising food.  Industrial agriculture…takes the people out of the equation." 

This is all meaningless. Pathogens are spread by animals, humans, water and air, and are invisible to the naked eye. The “industrial agriculture” he refers to is mostly just larger family farms in places such as California and Florida, rather than smaller family farms in other states, such as Montana.

In any case, Tester’s view is so insulting to the vast majority of U.S. farmers who raise the vast majority of food and the exemptions are so blatantly political that the various produce associations, from the American Mushroom Institute to the Washington State Potato Commission, have reversed their prior support for the bill and are now opposing the bill. This opens a small window to possibly defeat the bill.

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who previously held up the bill because it is not funded, penned an op-ed in USA Today opposing the bill.

It seems likely that the votes are there to pass the bill in the Senate, although several proposed amendments, including one by Senator Coburn to ban earmarks, could rock the apple cart. And the bill has seven Republican cosponsors (Richard Burr, Saxby Chambliss, Michael Enzi, Judd Gregg, Johnny Isakson, Lamar Alexander, and David Vitter).

The House passed a different bill, so things could slip up in conference.

Giving massive new powers to the government, rushing legislation in lame duck sessions, adding to the deficit – there is just no reason for these Republicans to be involved in all that. Obamacare already is set to give the government a stranglehold on our medical system. Do we have to give the government enhanced control over our food as well? Is too little government regulation over the food supply really the banner under which these Republicans wish to march?

Jim Prevor is the founder and editor-in-chief of Produce Business magazine, Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, and the New York Produce Show and Conference. 

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